Why we should get to play jigsaw puzzles at work

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

So where I work, we share a building with a biology research lab. It sounds cool but I never get to see them apart from a shared “hello” in the hallways. But the best part is that the path to the stockroom takes me near enough to see their staff room… which is filled with jigsaw puzzles!

Every morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea, you can spy them all in there, sitting or standing around a massive boardroom table covered in the latest masterpiece.

Tigers in the jungle.

Castles on the moors.

Uluru at sunset.

I swear I saw a Harry Potter puzzle once.

This is how they incubate their ideas, and I think it’s genius.

“Well, it sounds like we’ve hit a wall. Let’s take a break and come back after morning tea. To the puzzle room!”

But let me tell you, the puzzles have more benefits than just having a nice little break from work.

I’ve talked before about how we should sleep on it when we’re getting stuck with our creative projects, to come up with new ideas for them – a form of incubation theory. While some of us are better than others at working under pressure, even then it’s useful to have a good night’s rest to come up with more ideas.

In terms of keeping your creative mind working sharp as a tack, it’s become pretty much accepted through different research studies that doing puzzles for as little as 15 minutes a day has been shown to help delay dementia or even lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies by developmental psychologist Carol Dweck show kids who challenge themselves with hard puzzles instead of opting for easy puzzles grow up smarter and more socially adept than kids who choose the easy puzzle that they already know they can do. These “I like a challenge” kids have a ‘growth mindset’ that makes them constantly look to learn from their ‘failures’, compared to the “safest is best” kids who have a ‘fixed mindset’. (Watch her speak here or read more about her studies here.)

Finally, we can be more creative when we are happy rather than unhappy. So if doing jigsaw puzzles makes you happy, go do one! Your work will reward you for it.

So apparently, January 29 is International Puzzle Day. Sorry I didn’t know before or I would have posted this sooner so you could all be out there on your living room floors knocking together amazing puzzles.

The good news is you’ve got until next year to plan for some kind of awesome team-building puzzle exercise for your workplace or your kid’s preschool kindergarten or your university study group or your local library or your church service. (Now there’s a potential sermon illustration just waiting to be discovered!)


Did you know?

March is the first of only three months in our calendar that has a double life. You might not notice it straight away but it’s out there, doing stuff. (Because it’s a verb.) The other two are May (verbal auxiliary) and August (adjective).


This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan, © 2015. Reblogging is always highly encouraged, as long as you cite me as the author.

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