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

October 17, 2021

Scaling AI like a tech native: The CEO’s role

Borderless Leadership

What if a company built each component of its product from scratch with every order, without any standardized or consistent parts, processes, and quality-assurance protocols? Chances are that any CEO would view such an approach as a major red flag preventing economies of scale and introducing unacceptable levels of risk—and would seek to address it immediately. Yet every day this is how many organizations approach the development and management of artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics in general.

October 10, 2021

How business leaders can reduce polarization

Borderless Leadership

Rising polarization is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, and it can have severe ramifications for businesses, whether they take a public stance or not. However, by taking a selective and strategic approach, CEOs can reduce the harm of polarization first within their own companies.

October 3, 2021

With so many people quitting, don’t overlook those who stay

Borderless Leadership

The marketplace for talent has shifted. You need to think of your employees like customers and put thoughtful attention into retaining them. This is the first step to slow attrition and regain your growth curve. And this does not happen when they feel ignored in the fever to hire new people or underappreciated for the effort they make to keep business moving forward. They need to be seen for who they are and what they are contributing, and leadership needs to ensure this is happening. The authors offer four steps for leaders to take.

Send this to a friend