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Puzzling it out

Way back when I first started working in a “proper job” after uni some 10 years ago, I bought a puzzle (similar to this one, except the ball on mine is larger and a light wood in colour), and I couldn’t solve it. In fact, it took 3 months of being passed round the department before anyone solved it! (It was, incidentally, an Oracle developer who was contracting with us at the time who first solved it.)

Since that first puzzle, I have amassed quite a large collection, most of which lives in my drawer at work (I don’t have enough desk space to have all of them out!) whilst I rotate 3 or 4 periodically and leave them on my desk for others to try and solve.

Problem solving is perhaps my strongest skill, and I can see now that you’re beginning to get an inkling of where I’m going with this post! A large part of developing code involves problem solving – what’s the best design for the requirements? What’s the most efficient way of doing X and Y? What’s the cause of this bug that the users are reporting? and so on… I firmly believe that exercising the mind by doing puzzles such as these, Sudoku, crosswords, etc is one way of helping to keep the mind flexible and open to new suggestions and ideas (if nothing else, frustration is good for making you go “Oh, let’s just try this silly random thing I dismissed earlier!” and that can lead to all sorts of breakthroughs.)

Problem solving is not all the job entails, of course; you have to have a large dollop of common sense, not to mention a sense of proportion and reality (is this problem *really* worth solving?) but I maintain that it helps.

And in the meantime, I shall keep adding to my collection, whenever I see a new one…

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