Over the holidays a friend, my mom, and I started working on a 2,000-piece puzzle. The conversation was flowing, and all was right in the world. About 20 minutes in, I looked down and noticed that we were all navigating the puzzle in different ways.
- My friend was only looking for the edge pieces and discarding the inside pieces.
- My mom was patiently turning all the pieces over so we could see the color.
- And I was sorting edges from inside pieces and putting like pieces with like pieces.
In that moment I paused, and it reminded me that even though we are all working towards the same outcome, the way we approach the problem can be very different. One of us was focused on the big picture, one on the details, and one was trying to address the big picture and the details at the same time.
None of these were better or worse, they were simply different ways of approaching the same problem.
The next day I came home to find that my husband had joined in the fun and was working on the puzzle. His approach was to take all the pieces we had so meticulously turned over and put them back into the box so he could focus exclusively on the outer edge.
My initial response was, “Oh no, you didn’t!” We had worked so hard to get it ready and in one swoop of his hand all our hard work was dismissed. Seriously, I was frustrated and a little sad that my work the night before didn’t seem to matter.
Well, I got over it and a few days later we had a completed puzzle and, a few days after that, it was taken apart and put back into the box.
The lessons I learned from this puzzle included:
- We all tackle problems differently (and that is okay!).
- Have a clearly defined goal (a finished puzzle).
- Accept that people will approach the work differently (big picture, details, or working big picture and details at the same time).
- You can make people feel bad if you don’t acknowledge the work of those who came before you (husband ).
- Process and product are important and being clear on what matters more can be helpful when working in a group.
- But, most importantly, dig in and #DoGreatThings.