I’m a puzzling person.
This is both meant to be a joke and also is quite serious.
My wife certainly thinks I have my moments where she really can’t figure me out (in fairness, she is probably pretty spot on here), but all jokes aside, I love stretching my mind through the incorporation of puzzles.
I’ve always been attracted to word and number games, and when I have a thirty-minute period to relax (which isn’t all that often), I’m a regular crossword-solver (I once competed in a national crossword puzzle competition and got my pencil handed to me; it was a sobering experience).
What I like most about puzzles is the brow-furrowing that comes with trying to work through multiple potential solves, and the “ah-ha” that we get when we figure a possibility out.
So, it is probably no surprise that in both my personal and professional life, if there are meaty problems to solve, I love the opportunity to think through them. I’m not necessarily the best problem-solver, but I certainly love to take problems head-on.
As I think of my own kids, and also those who I serve in my professional capacity, I want problem-solving to be a skill that is always on the developmental track. I want others to approach problems with the same gusto as I do, and relish the joy of an unsolved problem, rather than get mired in the fact that an answer isn’t yet present.
There are multiple ways to welcome problem-solving. One of them is to build it into daily life. Questioning, and asking questions that don’t have one “right answer,” helps to prompt others to see the value in working through problems. Letting those we serve share their voice on these problems is another great way to incorporate “puzzling” skills.
Still one more way? Value the “wrong” answers, as much as the “right” ones. One of the things that keeps me coming back to tough puzzles is that sometimes I end up with what I think is a correct route, only to take a few steps forward and realize I have to take a bunch of steps back. This “reworkability” is a boon to puzzle solvers; we actively enjoy “messing up” as it helps us get closer to other potential solutions. All our learners and leaders should come close to feeling this way too.
Puzzles are a part of my life, and I’m glad to say they have helped shape my leading and learning styles. So, I was overjoyed when I saw the special section that came with the New York Times this past weekend (see header image). Now I just need the time to work on it. . .