Learning and experimenting

Putting together the unknown

Over Thanksgiving we got our puzzle board out for a jigsaw puzzle. This time it was a Wasgij (jigsaw in reverse). A puzzle where you get a few hints, but don’t know the picture you are putting together. It occurred to me, that there is a lot of resemblance between putting together the unknown in this puzzle and an innovation project. In both cases, you don’t know at the start how it all will fit together. The picture only slowly becomes more clear while working on the details.


Courtesy of Jumbo Puzzles

If you are looking for a Christmas present, a Wasgij jigsaw puzzle is certainly something to consider.

A Wasgij is not an ordinary jigsaw puzzle, because they don’t give you to picture you are making. Instead, you get a picture of what is out there on one end and then you put together an unknown picture that one of the persons sees in front of them. Like in the picture on the left, you may be asked to take the perspective of the lady with the blue coat. What more, because of what you can see, you know it will have to do something with an airport and tourists.

From that, you can also assume with some certainty, that in the picture you will be putting together, there will be blue air on top and tamarack at the bottom. Not much information to start a jigsaw of 1000 pieces with, but it gives you something to go on when sorting out the edges.

From there on, you look at the 900+ pieces remaining in the box and will be thinking, what do I make of that?

Then you start seeing pieces with similar letters, flower patterns, or a particular bright color. You sort them out and try to piece them together, not knowing where they will fit in the whole. Usually, it becomes soon clear whether the flower pattern belongs to a dress, towel, curtain, or bouquet.

You work your way through all these small projects, and slowly but surely, the entire picture emerges. It typically is an unexpected comical scene that evolves. See below the outcome of the Wasgij puzzle shown above (Sorry for showing the solution if you planned to make this Wasgij. Fortunately, there are many of these puzzles).

Putting together your innovation project

What makes a Wasgij resemble putting together the unknown in an innovation project? Well, in the latter case, you also only see what is there now. This view gives you some valuable clues to go by, but what is to come or to be made is far from clear – certainly not with regards to the details.

Piecing together the details of an innovation project is difficult. And the only way of getting there is by addressing these details one, by one. Just like in a Wasgij jigsaw puzzle.

For your innovation project, you start with a few things that stand out, collect information, talk to people, and start putting that part together. Once you have sorted out a part, you work on the next.

Over time, you will get a clearer picture, you may have to move a few things around to make it all work together. In other words, by doing, you are learning what you are working towards and how it will all fit together.

Looking at what is there at the moment is only of limited value, you have to figure out what is not (yet) there.

Having all the pieces

It helps to know that the Wasgij has a finite number of pieces. You have to put 1000 pieces together and you know the picture is a rectangle.

You also know that all the pieces should be there – if you bought the puzzle new and did not vacuum clean near the puzzle (that is how pieces have disappeared in our household).

However, for an innovation project you don’t know if you have all the pieces, whether they will fit together, or how.

That is where participating in an accelerator program brings value. The structure of such a program will help you to identify the building blocks you have to work on. You start working on one thing, like for instance defining who will use and buy your new solution, and expand from there. The program will help you to put all the pieces together one by one. Over time the linkages between these parts will become clear too – as well as where things don’t fit or work, or where there are still areas that need to be addressed.

Experience matters

My daughter had a friend over, who looked at the Wasgij puzzle with amazement. To her it looked like a daunting experience and impossible task. She asked “How do you know where to even start?”.

There it helps that my daughter has made many regular jigsaw puzzles. She knows how to look for little projects – like the letters, the air etc. and how to work through them.

Just as in an innovation project, someone experienced with the process can be tremendously helpful in guiding you along. Saving you a lot of time in second-guessing yourself.

Hate it or love it

I am sure there are people who hate Wasgij puzzles. After all, it is a niche brand in the whole jigsaw puzzle market. Most people seem to love puzzling together the known.

The same holds in business. There are many people who prefer doing the same thing, or improving on what exists, instead of adventuring into something new.

However, there certainly are people who enjoy the thrill of venturing into the unknown. They embrace the uncertainty and trust the process that they will be able to figure it out and put it all together.

Putting together the unknown in your innovation project

Do you want to put your innovation project together like a Wasgij jigsaw puzzle? At Organizing4Innovation, we happily help you through the process. We won’t be able to tell you the ‘picture’ you are making – we don’t know that either, so we cannot tell you what your solution should look like. However, we can tell you how to piece together your project and get to the final results in the most time-efficient and effective matter. That is, what parts to focus on first, how things possibly fit together (or not), share with you the best practices to sort things out, and how to get from idea to a new offering.

That is also what our users say about our T4 accelerator program. The online training modules help them to detail one aspect at a time, focus on the important building blocks first, and the platform then helps to bring it all together.

Happy puzzling!