What A Jigsaw Puzzle Taught Me About Leadership

Mars Jigsaw - photo by Andy Robbins

We recently completed the Mars Jigsaw Puzzle. It was a real challenge with lots of red! We’ve been completing a number of jigsaw puzzles recently and they have a lot in common with leadership. Both require problem solving skills, but that understates my biggest insights.

The big and the small picture

Completing a large, challenging jigsaw requires the ability to zoom in and out. You have to see the big picture. This involves recognizing the patterns and different sections of the puzzle. While that is important, you also can’t lose sight of the details. Each piece has a specific place. In leadership, need a vision and a clear understanding of the of the big picture you are trying to achieve. At the same time, you only make progress by completing smaller tasks. This is like finding the right places for the jigsaw puzzle pieces.

I also had no idea strategy would play a part in completing the puzzle. Where will you start and which sections will you work on first? Will you select them via shades of color or other features? How will you approach a section made up of the same color pieces? I tried some strategies that didn’t yield much progress. Fortunately, it was easy to see I needed to stop and choose another approach.

The incredible way my brain solved problems

Perhaps my biggest insight has been the importance of taking a break. When I get stuck and none of the pieces seem to fit, it is time to stop. When I come back to it, those same pieces now seem to fit. It seems so obvious but it wasn’t. Our brains are incredible in what they can do if we let them. Many times I’ve worked harder to try to overcome a problem. If stepped back and took a break, I may have found a breakthrough.

I’m not sure what our next puzzle will be but I’m looking forward to exercising my brain again. And who knows, maybe I’ll improve my leadership skills in the process.

If you want a challenge, check out the Mars Jigsaw Puzzle.