Think outside the box to solve tricky puzzles | 2022-02-08

Pro Tip: Plan, prepare, equip, and review to maximize your effectiveness as a leader and help others understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

As a teacher and engineer, I try to find engaging activities that demonstrate a lesson while achieving multiple outcomes – efficiency is key, right? I want my students to learn, to relate to each other, to think outside the box and to acquire new techniques.

Before one of these classes, I bought five different 1,000 piece puzzles and prepared five Ziploc bags. In bag #1 I placed all the puzzle pieces and the top of the box with the picture of the finished puzzle on it. In bag #2, I placed all the puzzle pieces, but no box top.

For bags #3 and #4 I split two puzzles in half and combined each half into a bag, so there were two different puzzle halves in each bag and a box lid with the image in each bag. Finally, bag #5 got only half of the puzzle and no corresponding picture.

I then separated the students into five groups. As I handed out the bags of puzzles, I told the class not to touch them until I said, “Come on.” Everyone was going to have the same amount of time for this project, if not the same bag. Once the bags were placed, I held up a stopwatch, told the teams to raise their hands when they were done and said, “Go!

Immediately everyone opened their bags and started matching puzzle pieces. With around six people per team, it was interesting to watch their approach and see who was taking the reins and how crucial open communication was to resolving this issue quickly.

Team #1 finished first and in less than 5 minutes. Team #2 finished next and took 15 minutes.

Teams #3 and #4 had puzzles with unique colors and each team eventually noticed that the other team had colors that seemed to match the picture I provided with their pieces. Working together, they traded coins and the #3 team raised their hands after 35 minutes and the #4 team after 45 minutes.

The No. 5 team, however, was losing its mind. With the room full of gifted type “As”, the idea of ​​saying “uncle” was not easy, but they finally insisted that they must not have all the parts necessary to complete the task.

At 55 minutes, I called the room to attention and asked what did it remind them of? Someone shouted, “A typical day at a bakery!”

“Yes!” I said. You see, the key isn’t just good instructions or just having all the right parts “fitted”. The key is to paint a picture with your instructions AND pre-equip all the right parts. Imagine how much better team #1 could have been had I offered verbal instructions and we had a “puzzle puzzle” (slow day) planning meeting.

Planning, preparing, kitting, and reviewing (making sure your team understands what your vision is) are key to maximizing your effectiveness as a leader, and ultimately that of your team.

The picture on the puzzle box demonstrates the importance of making sure others can imagine ‘what’ we are trying to achieve.

Always trust but verify.

Rowdy Brixey is founder and president of Brixey Engineering Inc.

You can reach him at LinkedIn.