Sector News

Gaming Your Way To Better Problem-Solving At Work

September 15, 2014
Borderless Leadership

Puzzle nerd Heidi Williams of Box shares her favorite tools (all of them fun) for keeping her skills sharp.

Heidi Williams has had an affinity for puzzles since she was a kid. Now, as the senior director of platform engineering at Box, she’s somewhat of a professional puzzle solver, helping developers figure out ways to take advantage of Box’s API.

To keep her skills sharp at work, she still puzzles in her free time. “I’m into all of the typical games,” she told Fast Company. “Tetris, Sudoku, and stuff like that.” Since having kids, however, she spends many nights playing Quarto, a wooden puzzle game made by French game creator Gigamic. “My 8-year-old is amazingly good. She absolutely beats me,” says Williams. “I don’t believe in letting her win just to win.”

Invented by a Swiss mathematician, Quarto is played on a 4×4 board. Players choose from among 16 different game pieces, each of which is either tall or short, dark or light, square or circular, and hollow top or solid top. The first person to get four with matching attributes across a row wins. “You constantly have to be looking at it from different perspectives,” Williams said.

It’s that quality that keeps Williams gaming. “Just being able to see something from someone else’s perspective, looking at a problem in a new way, thinking outside the box–is there something I’m not seeing?” she said. “I feel like software is like that.”

The research is still out on whether “brain training” games actually work. The studies have shown that playing games only makes people better at those tasks. Arguably, complex problem solving games are akin to making algorithms.

As a software person, Williams insists that it keeps her programming skills fresh. “You can’t just believe the constraints you’ve been given,” she says. “I think software is all about that.”

Any programmer understands the link between puzzles and algorithms. When hiring, tech companies often ask prospective hires to solve a series of riddles and games. In fact, Williams knew that her mind was suited to computer science by identifying her puzzling talents. “If you follow the things that you’re naturally good at, you’ll always be happier in your work life,” she said.

Puzzles can also help non-programming types who want to strengthen problem-solving skills. In addition to Quarto, she recommends Katamino and Quoridor, also wooden games produced by Gigamic. Katamino is a sort of IRL Tetris, and Quoridor is an abstract strategy game involving pawns.

However, for best results, she suggests playing with kids. “I love watching their creativity. As you grow up, you figure out what the boundaries of life are,” she says. “That’s one of the things that has inspired me–engaging with them.”

By Rebecca Greenfield

Source: Fast Company

comments closed

Related News

January 29, 2023

The elements of good judgment

Borderless Leadership

Author believes that a more precise understanding of what exactly gives someone good judgment may make it possible for people to learn and improve on it. He interviewed CEOs at a range of companies, along with leaders in various professions. As a result, he has identified six key elements that collectively constitute good judgment: learning, trust, experience, detachment, options, and delivery.

January 22, 2023

Negotiating terms with a new employer

Borderless Leadership

Hiring has exceeded pre-pandemic levels in many markets and the shortage of skilled executives has put pressure in the increasing competition for top talents. If you have specialized and high-demand skills, for example on ESG, sustainability or bio-research, and a solid record of experience, you are well positioned to negotiate your salary.

January 14, 2023

Borderless Executive Search welcomes New Partner, Agnieszka Ogonowska

Borderless Leadership

We’re kickstarting 2023 with exciting news for Borderless as we welcome Agnieszka Ogonowska as a Partner. Agnieszka, who joined Borderless six years ago, has 17 years of experience in executive search working with senior leaders across the Life Sciences, Chemical Value Chain and Food & Beverages industries.

How can we help you?

We're easy to reach