How Puzzles Can Inspire Creative Thinking On Your Team

How Puzzles Can Inspire Creative Thinking On Your Team

We are living through a period of profound change. Technological development is increasing rapidly and affecting every area of our lives, from work to social life to home life. The nature of our work lives is also changing due to the spread of remote work. All the while climate change is in the background, influencing our communities and how we will live our lives in the future.

With all this change occurring, it is becoming more and more necessary to think creatively and imagine new ways of doing things. Businesses and teams especially will have to be able to think creatively in order to stay resilient and adapt to changing situations. Creativity is thus becoming a major factor in the success of both teams and individuals.

At Invite Japan, we have always touted the fact that our team building activities are based around puzzles. We have emphasized many times how puzzles can bring people together, strengthen relationships, and build communication skills across different languages and cultures. But puzzles are also great at unlocking creativity.

So in this blog post we will show you the ways that puzzles can help inspire your teams to think more creatively. Some of these are a little surprising, and touch on areas such as decision making and learning how to think, which aren’t immediately associated with creativity. One of the main takeaways is that creativity isn’t just about thinking up new ideas, but also about being more aware of how you think in general.

1. Learn how to look at things differently

At their core, puzzles are about noticing details and making connections. First you have to use observation skills to notice what is there, what is missing, what is similar or what is weird. The devil is always in the details, as they say. But then the goal is to take a step back and look at the larger picture. How is one detail here connected to another detail over there? 

By doing puzzles, your brain learns how to focus on details, both finding the important ones as well as ignoring the unimportant ones–certain shapes or symbols, colors and designs can all be important in puzzles. But your brain also has to look at the big picture in order to make connections. After a while you’ll start noticing interesting details and connections everywhere, and looking at common objects in a different light.

This process is the key to seeing the world differently, and being able to think creatively. To think in a creative way, you similarly have to have to look at the world and at problems in both a detailed and big-picture way. And you also have to learn how to perceive things in a slightly different light.

2. Learn how to distract yourself to unlock creativity

A lot of research suggests that puzzles are great for artists and other creatives who are feeling  blocked. Why? It focuses their attention on one thing, allowing the rest of the mind, specifically the creative part, to free up. Essentially, doing a puzzle distracts them into thinking more clearly.

This seems counterintuitive at first. How can focusing your mind on a puzzle free up your brain? But thinking about it, it does make sense. When thinking about a new idea or creative project, you can often get stuck on a problem. This can cause stress and anxiety about not being able to work through it, which causes even more stress and anxiety. So sometimes the best thing you can do is to walk away and focus on something else. During that time, ideas that you were stressing about have a chance to slosh around, roam free, and grow in your brain without being hindered by stress, what many call an “incubation period.”

While there’s lots of activities that you can potentially do for this, such as taking a walk or reading a book, puzzles are perfect because they create a state of “mindful mindlessness”. They require a certain amount of focus and cognitive effort to solve them, but they won’t overwork you. Plus the repetitive and continuous nature of puzzles and puzzle games allows you to immerse yourself in them and reach a “mindless” state similar to meditation, where a lot of ideas can really develop on their own.

Let’s also not forget that teams can sometimes reach a creative block, too. Puzzle games and activities can therefore be a great way for teams to take a break while still using their cognitive abilities– including ones that they don’t usually use for their creative work. It might just be the type of activity your team needs to get the juices flowing and break past that really tough problem you’ve all been stuck on. At the very least, it will be much more beneficial to your team than scrolling through twitter. 

3. Learn how you think  

Part of the process of engaging your creative thinking skills is becoming aware about how you think and solve problems. This is called “metacognition“. By learning how you think through things, you can open your mind to new ways of thinking, and therefore new ideas.

Puzzles get you to think meta-cognitively by challenging your problem solving skills. Through trial-and error, your brain has to constantly work to come up with new ways of solving the puzzle, which can get you to think in different ways. Even when you fail, you will learn from your mistakes so that when you encounter a new problem, your brain will know how to start thinking through it. 

Puzzles are also unique in that they challenge both sides of your brain: your analytic side and your creative side. They usually involve multiple sets of skills like analytical skills, observational skills, and spatial reasoning, which means that they can show you how you think and which areas you can expand.

4. Learn how to make decisions

Creativity involves a lot of decision making. You have to be sure of yourself, and confident in your abilities in order to produce something new or form a new idea. There can often be a lot of fear in this decision-making process and insecurity about how to follow it through. 

Puzzles teach you how to make decisions more quickly, and with more confidence. While solving puzzles, especially when there is a time limit, you have to make a lot of decisions in a short amount of time. This gets you to trust your instincts more, and become more confident in your decision-making abilities. Each time you fail, succeed, and grow, you learn more about yourself and gain more and more confidence. 

However, because puzzles are “low-stakes”, there isn’t the same amount of stress and anxiety that comes with making big creative decisions. This allows you to relax and experiment with the feeling of failure and success in a safe environment. So when you do go back to making creative decisions, you will have more confidence in your ability to try again after failing, or pivot quickly to a new method.

5. Learn how to share opinions and generate new ideas 

On teams, creativity can often be a shared process. This involves a lot of discussion and brainstorming, as well as communicating and adapting different visions. For teams to be creative, they have to be willing to share their ideas and generate new ones together.

Solving puzzles in teams can help promote this type of shared creativity by getting team members to think together and be more open. Teams have to be willing to talk openly about how to solve problems, or else they won’t succeed. Solving puzzles also teaches teams to use and combine different skill sets. Maybe one person is good at finding things, and another is good at logic. Both skills need to be fully utilized in order for the team as a whole to move forward. 

But this type of sharing is not just about combining ideas but also generating new ones. As teams get in the habit of sharing their ideas while puzzle-solving, new ones end up forming. If one member shouts out an idea, perhaps another one will build on it, and another one builds on that new idea, and so on. Teams can therefore see in action the method of brainstorming and building on each other’s ideas in a developmental and productive way.   

6. Learn how to cultivate a sense of curiosity

I’ve saved the most important for last. One of the most important factors to thinking creatively is having a sense of curiosity and wonder at the world. The world is full of inspiration and uniqueness, but it takes a certain change in behavior and thought in order to begin to notice it, and in order to want to begin to notice it.

Curiosity is a willingness to discover the new, and to embark into the unknown. This can be hard. We like to stay safe and secure in what we know and what we don’t know. Challenging ourselves to look at multiple sides of something, to revel in complexity, can seem almost like a leap of faith.

Indeed, allowing yourself to think creatively is similar to jumping into the unknown. But coming to understand the creative process and enjoy it is about learning to accept new experiences and ideas into your life, even if they may be hard at first. 

In this same way, puzzles get you to explore things that seem strange at first, to think through problems that seem hard at first, and to discover within yourself abilities and skills that you never thought you had. By engaging this sense of curiosity, puzzles will truly inspire you to do great things.

Invite Japan’s puzzle-based team building activities will inspire your team to be more creative, as well as build stronger relationships. We have many different programs to fit your needs, including online events, face-to-face programs, outdoor activities and more!

Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash

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