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How good are you at spotting the difference?

When it comes to spotting the difference is it all about your eye for detail or is there something more important going on? Well read on, I'll let you know where to find the answer to the puzzle.

We were in Funchal last year and I loved the vibrant colours on this market stall, which then turned into a great picture for a Spot the Difference competition. I really enjoyed puzzles as a child, although I was never much of a crossword fan. Crosswords are whether or not you can remember a word based on a clue, so great for memory and vocabulary, but not really about solving something. Logic puzzles, or those that needed some lateral thinking, were my favourites. You know, a bit more Sherlock Holmes.

Children have always been encouraged to do puzzles of all types, and as adults they continue to be popular. Many apps and electronic games are specifically targeted towards adults as they age, to keep the brain agile, or for de-stressing. They are a place where we get wrapped up in the puzzle rather than the world at large. And I've begun to notice more about behaviour connected to puzzles than the puzzles themselves.

Lets just take the spot the difference puzzle above for a moment. Some differences are easy to find, and there is a small sense of satisfaction with each one you find. But once the easy ones are out the way, what happens to your motivation? Do you lose interest? Or are you determined to go through the pictures until you are certain you have found all the ones there are to find? And what happens if I tell you there are 10 differences? Does your competitive edge come out and spur you on? Of course if you have already found 12 differences you'll know that you have really studied the pictures, and there are more than 10 differences. That's right, there are.

We all have meta-programmes that run in the background, that govern some of our behaviours. We aren't conscious of them, they aren't right or wrong, they are just part of what makes us different. One of the unconscious programmes we run is our relationship filter. We will all sit somewhere along the spectrum between 'sameness' and 'difference', and where we are on that spectrum may also affect how well suited we are to certain jobs, or even how long we are likely to stay there. At one end we have those people who see, and look for, things to be the same.

People who are strong on 'sameness', matchers, can often be very easy to get along with, as they are drawn towards finding things in common. They will often stay with the same employer, or in the same job for many years. And will find it the hardest to find all the differences. But then we have the 'difference', the mismatchers, those who look for all the differences, the ones with the greatest need for change. Sometimes the mismatchers can be just that little bit harder to get along with due to their tendency to disagree. And they make great forensic accountants.

And how much does it matter whether you know how many differences there are, or not? Well, for most people, quite a lot. That's why you find so much about goals and how to achieve them. And knowing where those goalposts are is key to success. We enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes with achieving our goal. So if you haven't found all 15 differences yet, maybe now you know how many there are, you will want to give it one last go.

"If you believe it will work out, you will see opportunities. If you believe it won't, you will see obstacles."

Wayne Dyer


I like my puzzles to be hard, but not impossible. I found myself playing a version of Solitaire on an app, and that, however hard the puzzle was, if I knew it was 'winnable' I would keep re-dealing until I solved it. There is undoubtedly a part of me that doesn't like to be beaten, that isn't prepared to accept a sense of quitting or giving in. A stubborn streak. But more than that, when there is the belief that something is achievable you see more opportunities. You know that each time a move did not work out, then however obvious it looked, it was not the right move in the circumstances. And the thing to do, is to do something different.

The type of puzzles I did as a child have helped to shape the way I think now. For example, Jigsaw puzzles. Trying a piece, finding it didn't fit, and putting it down until the right place is found for it. Knowing that all the pieces have their place, the trick is to find where and when. Its the same in a team. Each 'piece' has their own strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes we forget that over time, and being suddenly thrown into everyone working from home has allowed space to notice what happens, when the pieces are laid out differently. Without the office dynamic people have been able to show themselves in a fresh way, and actually fit much better in a slightly different place.

Knowing there are 15 differences gives a goal to work to. And in the business as usual world of work, do we always remember to set some clear goals, a place to aim for? A place that when you get there you are rewarded with a sense of achievement. How could you offer some goals to aim for in your teams to boost motivation? Have you got 'matchers' in roles where getting along with people is important? Or do you have your more argumentative mismatchers there? When someone responds to your latest idea with yes, but... do you only hear the objections, or do you allow space to understand that they could be on the spectrum at sameness with exception? Yes = I agree with you, but = I really have to tell you about the differences I can see.

But is such an interesting little word that it warrants some more investigation another day. Until then if you want to see where all 15 differences are then check out the website at

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