When you “see” your strategy as a series of non-linear puzzle pieces, strategy becomes more innovative and robust.
During the pandemic I got into tackling jigsaw puzzles. Initially, the thousands of puzzle pieces overwhelmed me. Gradually, I discovered that puzzles are a great way to downshift from the barrage of daily To-Do!! After all, my only competition is the puzzle itself. Plus, I can work the puzzle with a partner and collaborate!
Eventually, I realized that puzzles are a metaphor for how we approach our personal and professional lives. Initially the focus is on the big picture (literally), followed by insights about how all the small pieces fit together.
Click! As I fit the puzzles pieces together, I incorporated my business thinking and focus, but leveraged more tactile and visual senses too.
Similarly, I developed a puzzle solving strategy. First, I sorted the pieces by color and pattern. Next, I assessed which pieces occupied the largest areas of the puzzle’s real estate. Then, I identified the pieces which were mission-critical to forming the overall puzzle frame.
Once framed, I dove into individual elements like scenery, buildings, people, etc. I focused my time on areas which were important to establishing reference points for the rest of the puzzle. Ultimately, all puzzle pieces attract each other because they need to reinforce each other to be successful. Does this sound like strategic collaboration?
Plus, have I told you how relaxing it is to solve puzzles? Once you get started, you find reasons to take mental breaks from your workday and shift your mindset to the puzzle. Voila! You see where a new piece fits into the big picture.
What happens when you reframe your routine for putting together your own strategic puzzles? Try out this exercise.
- Take some Post-Its®. Identify discrete elements of your problem, workday, project, work-life balance (!!). Then, develop the puzzle boundary framing all these elements. What is your “big picture”? Why create this puzzle in the first place?
- Then, look at the individual pieces you identified. After all, each of these pieces of the puzzle must lead to one another to be successful, and not necessarily in linear order. No piece exists without interlocking into other pieces.
- Which Post-It puzzle pieces dominate in terms of quantity, but not necessarily quality?
- Then, which puzzle pieces establish hubs of reference, pulling together other elements of your strategic puzzle?
- Finally, which Post-It notes seem to have absolutely no relationship to any of the others? (Hint: If you created that Post-It note, then you prioritized that specific piece as having a unique role and relationship to all the other pieces, just like a jigsaw puzzle.)
Think of your strategy as a contextual, multi-directional puzzle. As a result, you simultaneously see the small pieces without losing site of the big picture. Give it a try. Plus, complex problem-solving in this manner recalibrates how you process information: today, tomorrow, and moving forward.
I catalyze cross-functional, collaborative, profitable, and sustainable solutions across value silos. | Professional Innovation | Cross Functional Leadership | Complex Problem Solving | Speaker, Consultant, Coach|
Babette Ten Haken’s One Millimeter Mindset™ programs catalyze people who solve problems differently to collaborate more successfully. Become more professionally visible, cross-functionally relevant, and strategically valuable as you create and implement innovative and robust business outcomes together. Babette is a business-oriented STEM professional, qualitative Voice of the Customer facilitator, PMI-certified Wicked Problem Solver, Duke Corporate Education licensed Strategic Agility practitioner, and Six Sigma Green Belt (Quality). Babette is a member of SHRM, PMI, the National Speakers Association (NSA). Her playbook of cross-functional collaboration, Do YOU Mean Business? is available in soft cover and digital formats on Amazon.com. Contact Babette here. Image source: Adobe Stock.