This Christmas a friend of the family gave my 7-year old a 1,000-piece puzzle.  She enjoys doing puzzles and it provides a great opportunity for us all to work on a project together.  We started the puzzle on Sunday evening, thinking we would finish the next day…boy were we wrong!  We have been working a couple of hours every night and six days later, we are just finishing up!  We have been eating around a puzzle for a few days now and I am really ready to get my dining room table back.  I am even dreaming about puzzle pieces…can we please be done already!

The funny thing is, though, there really is a lot you can learn about leadership, teamwork and kingdom-minded problem solving from putting together a puzzle.  The process you go through reveals some interesting insights:

1. Create the frame:

First, you start off by separating the edge pieces from the rest so that you can begin to create a frame within which to work.  This sifting process takes some time, and invariably you miss a few pieces and have to go back through all of the pieces again to find the parts that you overlooked.

  • Are there any pieces you have overlooked in the project you are working on right now?  Is your framework complete?  Are you operating within the boundaries that God has called you to?  Are you working in the right space?
  • Do you have the team members you need?
  • Did you leave something behind from the last season that you need in this new one?
  •  Do you have a solid framework to build from, or have haste, unresolved issues or undefined fears created gaps in what you are building?  What are you doing to fill them?  Sometimes we have to revisit places we have been in order to retrieve the keys we need to build with today.  

2. Separate the pieces into sections:

Once the frame has been sorted and put together, you then begin separating the interior pieces by sections based on the reference picture.  The funny thing is, we found that as were assigning pieces to different sections, we often got it wrong.  Pieces that we put in one section actually went in an area completely different from where we thought they would go. We were working diligently on a solution, but the pieces we were putting together actually went somewhere else, which wasted a lot of valuable (6 days!) time.

My daughter would often try to force pieces together. More than once, there was a suggestion to get a knife and cut a piece so it would fit where we thought it ought to go.  At times, we would scour through the pieces, certain that the one piece we were missing to finish a section was on the floor or not included with the puzzle, only to discover at second, third, tenth!?! glance, the piece was actually right there all along. A piece that didn’t fit,  suddenly made perfect sense.  How is this possible? I do not know….

  • You may have a blueprint in mind, but is what you are seeing accurate?  Where do you need to shift your perspective?
  • How are you using the pieces you have to complete your assignment?  Are your team members in the right place, or have you labeled them?  
  • Are you using the right tools in the right places?  Could moving them to a different area solve a problem?
  • Are you building based on your own assumption of how things should work or are you building based on what God sees?  
  • Where are you wasting time on your own solution at the detriment of the project as a whole?

If we are going to truly create kingdom-minded solutions, we are going to have to be more God-dependent.  Your perspective might be limited.  It might be clouded or it might simply be wrong.  Like never before, we are going to need to be connected to the Holy Spirit in the practical issues of our work.

Hearing the Spirit is not something we reserve for church services.  Daily connection will lead to accurate vision of the blueprint God has designed for our assignment.  We can do better than we have in the past, but to do that we have to surrender our paradigms.

  • Where are you forcing things?  Why don’t you stop and listen to the Spirit.  Do it right now. 
  • Are you unhappy with the pieces you have been given?  Where are you trying to cut things so they are more to your liking?  Are you trying to take a shortcut, or are you content to move at the pace God has for you? 

Stop complaining about what you have and start building.  You will be waiting for the perfect pieces forever.  It’s not going to happen and you will have wasted years of your life doing things that don’t really matter, while dreaming of what might happen someday.  People are waiting on the solutions within you.  It’s time to start.  It’s time to get busy. Don’t take your gift to the graveyard still in the gift-wrap.

 3. Work As A Team:

Puzzle solving becomes more efficient when you trade sections with someone else. You can get so focused on solving your section that you miss the solution.  I think it goes back to the missing-piece problem.  You are looking for the solution that your mind has determined and that rigid mindset causes you to overlook the obvious.  When someone with fresh eyes and a different perspective comes in, they may see a solution that was sitting right in front of you.  As we were nearing completion on the puzzle, we would find ourselves working as a group, each contributing to the other person’s section as we recognized the solution.

  •  Who can you bring into your situation to create a fresh perspective? 
  • Have you limited the voices around you to people that think just like you?  The ride will be smooth, but you won’t discover any novel solutions.  Which is more important to you?
  • What key shareholders are you not hearing from?  Employees, volunteers, customers?  What can you do to change that?
  • Do you have any structures in place that hinder collaboration?  The best ideas come from open environments.
  • Are you so in love with your thing, that you fear sharing it with others?  
  • You say you want to be a team player and community collaborator, but what are you doing that proves that?
  • Do you have people in your life that hear God?  Do you really listen to them?  Just consulting doesn’t count. 

I hope you take some time to think about these questions as you ponder your current assignment.  What you are working on matters… to you, to your stakeholders, and most importantly to God.  Make your art, your contribution to society, the best that it can be.  You might just be one piece away from an amazing solution.