Sarah’s Diary Episode Nine

Jenny was excited about today’s class. Up to this point, her focus had been primarily on developing innovation traits. This class she wanted to use Sarah’s diary to begin an exploration of the innovative process itself.

“Today I’ve selected a diary entry from February 1, 1889. Let me tell you about jigsaw puzzles since that’s the focus of this entry. The jigsaw puzzle was invented by John Spilsbury, a map maker in England. He would attach a map to a piece of wood and cut out each country. He then sold these to teachers to use in geography classes. Twenty-five years before this diary entry, the jigsaw was developed making it easier to cut out the puzzle pieces. Puzzles went from being geography lessons to a way to relax and challenge oneself. Now here’s the diary entry.”

“Dad made us a jigsaw puzzle today. His painting was beautiful and it seems such a shame to have it cut up into all those pieces. This one is going to be tough because the colors are so similar. The sky and lake are very close together in color.”

“Luke is the best at puzzles. He just seems to have an eye for finding the pieces that none of the rest of us can find.”

When Jenny finished reading the diary entry, she asked what the diary entry said about innovation. As she expected, the class picked up on the observation skills that are essential for both innovation and completing puzzles. There was much more to the diary entry that she hoped to develop.

“Who in the class like to do jigsaw puzzles?” she asked. Only two hands were raised. When she asked who liked to do the boxed version rather than the computer version, she was left with only one student, Makayla.

“Makayla, tell us how you find the right puzzle pieces.”

“Obviously I look for color and shape, but a lot of pieces could be the right one.”

“Then how do you decide which one to try,” asked Jenny.

“I guess you could say trial and error.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun. So you just explore every possible piece?”

“No, as I go along I develop a better sense of what might work. Generally I can find the right piece in about 5 tries.”

“Thanks Makayla. Now I’ll ask the rest of you. How does the process of completing a puzzle compare to innovation?”

After a spirited discussion, the class arrived at several principles:

  • Innovation is a process of exploring possibilities
  • Each failed attempt leads to a greater sense of what to try next
  • Intuition is critical in the exploration process

* * *

“Whenever you start working on something, you have to go about it with the underlying assumption that this puzzle has a solution, right? If you started a jigsaw puzzle not knowing whether all the pieces were in the box, it would not be a fun exercise.” – Boyan Slat (Dutch inventor)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.