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The Sudoku Puzzle Approach to Creative Business Planning

I admit it. I’ve become addicted to sudoku puzzles. And, they are showing up in my life in weird ways. Just the other day I was talking with a delightful group of entrepreneurial women on the verge of launching new businesses. We were commiserating about the challenges of writing a business plan. It seems so left-brained and not so much fun. Then, it occurs to me…writing a business plan, planning a product launch, creating a marketing strategy — really any "big hairy project" — is kind of like a sudoku puzzle. The Teacher is at hand…consider if you will the lessons of the sudoku puzzle:

  1. Start with the "rules" of what you are creating — they provide a container to hold your creation.

  2. Do the easy things first — they will usually open doors to complete the tasks that seem harder at the start.

  3. Work in pencil and have an eraser handy — use tools that allow you to easily take risks and make changes.

  4. Follow the emerging order of what you are creating. Step-by-step is not always a straight line.

  5. A fresh perspective provides new answers. What is unclear when viewed in one way, becomes obvious when viewed in another.

  6. Sometimes it goes painstakingly slow, sometimes it ripples quickly — that’s just how it is. Take advantage of your momentum by going fast when things are rippling; let yourself slow down when the pace needs to be more painstaking. The ebb and flow is natural.

  7. Struggling does not create progress. Stop banging your head against the answer that just won’t come. Move on to a different part of the puzzle.

  8. Feeling stuck is an invitation to explore a different area– if you can’t find the solution now, it could be because there is other information that needs to happen first before this box can be solved.

  9. Savor the feeling accomplishment when you solve a piece of the puzzle — and use that delicious feeling to inspire you forward.


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