Puzzling Times

written by CHRC
2 · 05 · 20

We are just finishing our holiday puzzle. You know that puzzle that you do as a family so that you have a legitimate excuse to sit around for hours at a time in your holiday pajamas? Well someone (me) had a brilliant idea this year of selecting a 1,000 piece puzzle of the Sistine Chapel. Pazzo!

I think most people have strategies for doing puzzles: find the four corners first, then segregate out the edge pieces, and once the structure is completed, then start looking for colors or patterns. Most of us are set in our way of solving puzzles. Our family has traditionally had its roles set. My husband and son have extraordinary spatial development skills—and we have overly relied on these. I might have been staring at a section forever, desperate for a piece in one area, and my husband would come, stand over my shoulder, nonchalantly pick up the one piece I’d been searching for, and silently snap it into a gaping hole. Infuriating—yet this skill completes the puzzle at a much faster pace. 

This year the tables were turned. Once the perimeter was finished, our traditional go-to guy’s secret weapon was of no use. Why? Because Michelangelo’s genius required color recognition to solve this puzzle, and no spatial development skill was going to help. My spatial development genius husband is very challenged when it comes to nuances in color.

Our son returned to college, our daughter (quite smartly) refused to help, and every time my husband wandered back to try again, frustration took over. I think I must have changed tactics five different times and employed entirely new ones. There was no one way to solve this puzzle.  

This really made me think about the way we approach problem-solving at work. How often do we have a project or problem and our first response is to ask the office go-to guy? How often would the go-to guy admit this is a problem he can’t solve? That he’s never done a 1,000 piece puzzle before or that he is terrible at color recognition? How often does a boss or colleague tell the go-to guy that he doesn’t have what it takes to solve THIS problem? It’s time to recognize that sometimes, someone who has traditionally never been the strongest player for the typical problems tackled, just might have the required skill set to lead the team in solving a new puzzle. 

I think there’s a lot of food for thought that anyone in an organization or leading a team should ponder. Anyone in the midst of performance reviews should definitely be thinking about team members as a collection of all of their strengths and perceived weaknesses. You could be overvaluing one person’s spatial development while overlooking someone else’s color recognitionan ability that someday might be the key to solving the team’s biggest challenge.

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