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Organized Persistence

By Peter Lloyd

My problem-solving brain works the way I work on a jigsaw puzzle—with organized persistence. Since your brain and mine have more in common than not, I’ll bet yours does too. Some brain experts would agree. Any problem can be described as a solution whose pieces have not yet been properly put together. If you’re a casual jigsaw puzzle solver, you may not appreciate this analogy. So allow me to make my case.

To begin assembling a puzzle, I organize pieces by color or whatever category the image demands. Then I categorize the shapes. They get names. The shape in the upper right of the puzzle illustration, I call Man. The two in the left column, I call Monkey. And so on. four jigsaw puzzle pieces connectedIt helps to name the shapes, because I can tell myself, “I need a Monkey with lots of light green.” Zoom! With an instruction like that, my eyes quickly find what I need.

My earliest connections or piece assemblies, I tend to find out of sheer luck while persistently trying to fit together pieces in similar color groups. Slowly emerges an idea of where groups belong in the big picture. Groups fit together, the border forms, and gradually the image appears.

You can use this jigsaw-puzzle approach to solve complex problems or to manage intricate projects. Thinking as if you are working on a jigsaw puzzle prompts you to ask questions such as, What do we already know? What’s missing? What kinds of things (categories) are we working with? What goes together?

Without fail, working this way surprises you with insights. Simple, almost obvious ahas present themselves one after the other. Lots of little ahas eventually reveal bigger ahas. Soon you’re working with groups of connected pieces or larger, better developed insights. And before you know it your problem is solved, your puzzle is complete.

Contrary to the stereotypical image of the creative process—the idea that creative people swashbuckle their way to way to brilliance—the more methodically mundane the creative process, the more powerfully effective the results. Creative people love this kind of all-absorbing work and know how to make it fun.

When I name products and services for clients, part of my work always involves a matrix. I’ve built a simple spreadsheet with formulas in the cells that combine what they find at the top of their columns and at the head of their rows. In the top row and first column I load word parts. In the body of the spreadsheet I get an exponential load of word combos. Ninety-nine percent is junk. But the few that I find worth pursuing often inspire original names that satify my client’s naming criteria.

Persistence always pays in problem solving. If I were to start my career over again and write about some other power than creativity, I would concentrate on persistence. I’ve seen many fiercely persistent people display little creativity and achieve great success with persistence.

Organized persistence is the foundation of creativity. Creative people use it, whether they realize it or not. Creativity might even be defined as the ability to recognize solutions others overlook, solutions which appear during the process of persistence.

Peter Lloyd is co-creator with Stephen Grossman of Animal Crackers, the breakthrough problem-solving tool designed to crack your toughest problems.
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