Puzzle Piece Problem Solving: A powerful metaphor for finding solutions to difficult problems

Justin Zack
3 min readJan 5, 2022
Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

If you have ever worked on a jigsaw puzzle, you know that when you find the right piece, it feels so satisfying when you finally get it. The same can be said for solving the problems of everyday life.

Puzzle piece problem solving is a powerful metaphor for finding solutions to difficult problems.

During the holidays our family, well mostly my wife, likes to spend time putting together a puzzle or two. I sat and observed how she approached the problem of re-creating the picture on the box and realized that there are some lessons to be learned about problem solving.

Here are three principles that you can apply to your next problem:

Constrain the problem by creating a frame

The first thing my wife did when constructing the puzzle was to find all the pieces that had a flat edge. She organized those pieces and worked to construct the border or frame of the puzzle.

Whether you are trying to solve a problem or just trying to get the most out of life, it is helpful to first constrain a problem by creating a frame around it. This is especially true if you are working through a daunting challenge that doesn’t have an obvious answer.

A puzzle has a frame, and so does a problem. To begin framing your problem. You can ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the current reality?
  • What are the facts? Where am I?
  • What is my goal? How do I want things to be?
  • What resources do I have available to me?
  • How will I know when I have solved the problem?

These questions help you narrow down your options for solving the problem. This can help you to focus and gain insight into what results you want your decision or action to achieve.

Look for patterns and organize them into themes

I noticed as my wife started to put the pieces together, she organized every piece that had some shade of blue on it. Then she would slowly turn the pieces in that shade around looking for connections that…

Justin Zack

Project leader. Product thinker. Write about human things. Find me at justinzack.com