I was babysitting my 4 year-old nephew last night and we were playing with a German circle puzzle. The puzzle is very much like the Chinese Tangram puzzles that are popular now, where you take the geometric pieces and try to arrange them to match images published in a booklet.  The pieces of this particular puzzle fit into a circular arrangement for easy storage in the box.

When we were done playing, I told him to put the pieces back together to make a complete circle.  He worked diligently for several minutes and then suddenly announced, “I did it Ryan, I made a complete circle!”

I must have had a less than satisfied look on my face because before I could speak he added excitedly, “…with a hat!”

It’s hard to argue when you’re getting more than you originally asked for.

I have made the point several times in this space that failure, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  Failure is typically the first step on the path to success.  Still, it can be hard to present failure to superiors and if you do it too many times it can be detrimental to your career.  The brilliance of a 4 year-old reminds me, that while it’s good to be open to failure, it’s not always good to call it that.  Sometimes you’ve got to look for the hat that makes a failure a little bit better than success would have been.

I now have a German Circle With a Hat puzzle that proves the maxim.

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Photo of Ryan McClead Ryan McClead

Ryan is Principal at Sente Advisors, a legal technology consultancy specializing in cross-platform solutions and support.  He has been an evangelist, advocate, consultant, and creative thinker in Legal Technology for more than 15 years. In 2015, he was named a FastCase 50 recipient, and in 2018, he was elected a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management. In past lives, he was an Innovation Architect, Knowledge Manager, a Systems Analyst, a Fashion Merchandiser, and Theater Composer, among other things.

  • I've completed many projects… "with a hat"

    And, I didn't charge extra for throwing in the hat, either! 😉

  • Anonymous

    I think it only works if you can show the client the value of the hat on top of the circle.

    Kids are creative but sometimes they need a little help to complete the circle (aka project management).

  • Anonymous

    I rarely get a project that has all the pieces for a complete circle. We all make do with what we are given