A Puzzling Sunday Reflection

A dear friend gave me a fantastic gift (thank you, Tina!): a 750-piece puzzle of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). From previous Brilliance Nuggets, you might know that I love hiking. You might also be aware of my visualization game

  • For each Brilliance Nugget I’m writing (one per day for one year), I imagine having hiked 6 miles on the A.T. 
  • Within that year, I will have “hiked” the whole A.T. 

What you might not know is: I love puzzles. To me, it is a fun challenge, and it is a quiet activity I can enjoy on a grey day when – for once – I’m not doing something else. 

An Interesting “Aha” Moment

As I assembled this puzzle, it struck me: Solving a puzzle is a learned art and science

Imagine you had put together a puzzle (maybe true?). Someone dumps 750 little pieces on the table and says “Good luck,” and leaves you to the task. How easy would it be to assemble that puzzle?

Or, perhaps the person who is an expert at solving puzzles gives you a few pointers: 

  1. Find all the edge pieces and corner pieces.
  2. Build the framework – look at the colors and patterns on the pieces, and look at their shapes (obviously!)
  3. While doing that, look at the picture on the top of the puzzle box as a guide.
  4. Then sort the “interior” pieces into groups. For example, all the blue pieces for water, green for “grass,” or whatever…
  5. Match them up, and you will build the picture little by little. Have fun – and some patience!

That’s better.

As I was putting the puzzle together, I thought it would be “fun” to observe myself for a bit to see how I solved this puzzle. 

It turns out the strategies I use are much more intricate than I thought. I will not bore you with the actual steps, but I was struck by how complex the thought process actually is. Putting this process on paper in a rigorous manner would take some effort. That is precisely one of the main obstacles to documenting how we do things. 

Typically, we are unaware of how complex something we do easily truly is – and thus, how “puzzling” it is for someone else to learn it. (Pun intended.)

And, we have forgotten some of what we do – we just do it. And that makes it hard to train those (critical) steps. We give people five steps, but we take a lot more ourselves in reality. And then we are surprised why it takes the other person so long to “get it” or why the quality doesn’t turn out as expected.

Yes, that is a big part of why I came up with Brilliance Extraction™. We can’t let our expertise go so underutilized. It is so limiting to keep doing things that we would like to delegate – but currently can’t. Our ability to come up with new things, drive our organization to the next level – and take a breath once in a while -all suffer when we keep our expertise in our brain and nowhere else.

Key Takeaways

  1. Typically, we don’t document our thought processes and HOW we do what we do. It is often complex and normally, it feels like an arduous task.
  2. Normally, we can’t even document everything we do, even when we are willing to do it. That is because we have “forgotten” some of what we do – we do it automatically and are not even aware of it.
  3. The metaphor of putting together a puzzle shows us how “puzzling” learning often is. We are not given all the steps it takes to be successful.
  4. Brilliance Extraction™ is a game changer because it addresses these challenges.

I’m going back to my puzzle. But first, …

I’m Curious

What are your thoughts and experiences on 

  • Training someone in something you do well?
  • Being taught something by an expert who is busy and expects you to get it quickly?

Live Brilliantly,

Dr. Stephie

P.S.: I appreciate you commenting and sharing this Brilliance Nugget with others. Thank you!

Stephie Althouse

2 thoughts on “A Puzzling Sunday Reflection”

  1. Love this nugget! I too love putting puzzles together, but never considered the learning process for someone who attempts putting a puzzle together for the first time, vs someone who enjoys them as a relaxing hobby. Comparing this to what each of us do professionally on a daily basis really does support the importance of Brilliance Extraction! Great Job!!

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