My wife has been putting together some very complex puzzles lately, with many pieces, odd shapes, and undifferentiated images from piece to piece. Completing them as quickly as she does requires intense concentration.

Along the way, there are times when she’ll get stuck; it will seem impossible to find the particular piece she needs next. Often when she’s in that situation, I’ll walk by, chat briefly, and she’ll find the piece (or I will) almost instantly.

She credits me with being good luck when that happens. While that certainly makes me feel good, it’s obviously not true. I suspect one of two things is going on when this happens and both tie directly to perspective, as so much of creative problem solving does.

If I happen to find the piece, it’s simply because I’m bringing no previous perspective to the problem. I’m seeing the patterns of shapes and images from a new and different angle than she is. And if our brief interaction is coincident with her finding the piece, it’s because the time we interacted is enough to break her concentration, allowing her if not a new, at least a fresher perspective as she reimmerses herself in the puzzle.

So next time you’re working alone, concentrating intensely on trying to solve a problem with the door closed and the phone on send, consider letting yourself be interrupted. The break in concentration may be just what you need to figure out the problem or to at least have the interrupter do it for you!