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What's your Jigsaw Strategy?



Do you collaborate well?


Whether you look for the straight edges or start with the middle pieces says more about your collaboration style than you might think. We have embraced many hobbies during the pandemic, in fact there is an obvious increase in our search activity for the word 'Jigsaw', Treadmills and Scrabble have also seen search increases, but it is understanding puzzle strategy that is going to raise your online collaboration game.


Source: Google Analytics May 25, 2020


Research at the University of Bath looked at how people collaborate on a range of projects, using a 120 piece dinosaur jigsaw, and what they found was that we are a nation of Hoarders, Border Obessesives and Opportunists in our approaches to completing jigsaw puzzles.


The relationship we have between collaboration and competition is complex, on the one hand competition can make us faster, but collaboration can make us better, for leaders and businesses the ability to recognise when to be competitive and when to collaborate is the first challenge, the second is knowing how to collaborate and especially in the online world.


So what's your jigsaw puzzle strategy? Dr Hilary Johnson who led the research says

"A person's jigsaw strategy closely reflects both their personality and level of skill, and although they may not be as extreme as opportunist or border obsessive, they frequently share behaviour with one of these two extremes"

The three strategies were observed through some extreme behaviours, hiding and fighting over pieces for example, I've experienced this behaviour with siblings at Christmas, but maybe you've seen this kind of activity in the workplace? hiding or holding back information, disagreements over approaches that become personal? creating space and time for people to reflect and disagree is one of the key challenges for the online world of work.


Online collaboration tools provide a real time stream of instant messaging, they should in theory reduce intensification of labour- that is we are more likely to complete tasks in isolation (requiring more labour from us) than reach out for help if we are physically separated from our colleagues.


Observe how you approach a jigsaw puzzle with other people and see if your strategy is more or less aligned to competitive win-lose or collaborative win-win.


Collaborate well

  • Listen - online is not neccessarily understood , written communication is devoid of body language, video conferences a source of fatigue through cognitive dissonance -see earlier blog

  • Disagree - the absence of vocal disagreement could be a sign that the group is uncomfortable with conflict resolution, and this is an essential skill and dynamic of any working group.

  • Contribute - as a team member, think 'we' and not 'me' to move from a competitive to collaborative mindset

  • Work together and ask for help - This does seem obvious, but we are inclined to intensify our own efforts to complete tasks when we are working alone than seek help from others.


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