Some management lessons from Sudoku-by R.V.S. MANI
(From the "Open Page" of "The Hindu" Online edition of India's National Newspaper,Sunday, Jul 16, 2006)
I DO not know how many of you are fond of the latest number game "Sudoku." It all started on a fine morning, when I was waiting for my office van to pick me up. I and my daughter started filling in the grids on some logic that crossed our mind at that time. For the next month or so, it was more of dirtying the study room with wooden parings of the pencil and eraser wastes, much to my wife's chagrin. Finally after buying a book from Higginbothams on "How to solve Sudoku Puzzle" the technique of clearing them became interesting.
Now the easy puzzles are child's play; medium take an hour or two extra; hard puzzles slightly more. In a day if there is no disturbance at home (and if your wife is asleep), safely three puzzles are solved. In the bargain, certain flashes of management lessons strike the mind.
One correct answer
There is only one solution to one puzzle: Despite various options, there is bound to be only one correct answer to one puzzle. You cannot interchange numbers and bring in another solution. In any organisation, if the mission and vision are clear, most of the problems can be solved with ease. If there is no clarity, whatever effort you may put in, the result may not be commensurate with the effort. Further if the only one effective solution to any problem is connected, the goal is achieved without much difficulty.
Ability to change: You select a number, which may look correct, because of another logic leading to that space. But if the logic itself is wrong, you must be prepared to change your mindset (in this case, the logic itself) and erase the number to move to its original location. In the same way, if your ideas and thoughts are not fetching desired results in the desired time frame, do not hesitate to change your methodology to reach the goal.
Patience: Sometimes, you get stuck to get the numbers on the grid, despite your mind analysing various options and combinations. Be patient. Leave the grid for a while; concentrate on something different (light reading/TV programmes). After an hour or so, try the puzzle again. You will hit the elusive logic with ease and all numbers will fall in place. So is the problem solving in an organisation. Any complex problem can be solved, once you let that out of your immediate concentration and reattempt it a little later.
Do not take non-calculative risks: There is only one place for any number in that puzzle. Though two or three options/locations will be available, you have to do a lot of permutations and combinations in logical thinking to get the correct place for that number. This is also true with real life situations. Before taking any speculative risk in business, analyse those risks thoroughly and then reach a solution.
Never fear complex problems, attempt them first: Despite solving many puzzles, you get attracted to solve hard problems first and the satisfaction you get out of solving them can never be compared with that of solving easy or medium puzzles. The same is true in handling business problems. The more complex problems are solved, the more satisfaction you gain of having achieved something. In that process, the small irritants get cleared themselves.
Never fear failures: Sometimes despite all your efforts, you will hit the wrong move in the final stage of solving the puzzle. Do not get disheartened. Erase all the numbers on the grid and start the puzzle once again. You will hit the correct answers. Similarly, do not get bogged down on drawbacks and failures in your path forward. Learn the wrong lessons, correct them and march ahead. Haven't you heard "It's not how many times I fall that matters, but how many times I stand up again that makes me the winner?"
Never hesitate to approach a problem: If you start thinking that this puzzle is just a fad and why waste time on that, you will never enjoy playing this puzzle. The same way, whenever you confront any problem, attempt to derive a solution rather than avoiding the problem per se.
Learn the technique fast: To solve the puzzle, you have to initially learn certain techniques governing the logic of solving. In that way, the book was my help. In your management of solutions, learn the technique through constant reading, updating your knowledge and interaction with various forums and bodies furthering such education. A saw sharpened is more useful than a dull one for effective felling of trees.
Finally they say, a creative mind will think of different solutions unheard of and never thought of. Creativity, they say, can be improved by playing this puzzle.