rubiks cube, puzzle, logic, challenge

Game Theory: Rubik’s Cube

At a previous job I used to keep a Rubik’s Cube on my desk and whenever I got on a long (read: probably deeply boring) conference call, I would jumble and solve that puzzle again and again. It became something akin to bouncing a ball off the wall – and I think I annoyed some of my coworkers because they could hear the click-click-whirring constantly.

I had a lot of calls.

Similar to Minesweeper and Civilization, while playing for the sake of playing, there are other things that can be gotten out of it. Sometimes a toy is not just a toy.

A Rubik’s cube operates in 3-D; no movement is isolated. For most people the first time you take this out for a spin, literally, they tend to focus on just moving a “single cube” to align it with another. You can get some mileage out of that, but not much. Why?

Because you’ll quickly realize that every time you get more of the same colored cubes lined up on one face, you are constantly/helplessly jumbling all of the other faces. You could get lucky, but that’s accidental and it will not last nor will it fully solve the puzzle.

Similarly, you’ll often hear managers or executives just say “get it done” and if you’re not savvy about that – and I’ve seen this – analysts and/or developers and/or anyone else in the middle will simply “get it done”. They will make changes to code, create and instantiate/mandate processes, take actions which while on that single face make sense constantly/helplessly destroy or severely hamper other code/processes/plans in the process. You may solve for a short-term need but you will pay for it harder over time.

Therefore, think in 3-D. I have had the luxury of working in “change management” for the majority of my career. Therefore, I am intimately familiar with what the people-process-tools triangle. Whether it’s designing a new report, a strategic operating model, a change management process, a data management process, a project plan, a requirements management plan, a product roadmap, etc. (I’ve done all of those and more!), I always ask these three questions:

  1. Do I have the people, the right people, to do this and what’s their availability?
  2. Do I have the right processes in place that support my goal? What do we need to do?
  3. Do I have the right tools to do the job? Are they fit-for-purpose?

Most problems / goals we have may seem simple upfront, but they’re really not. My Rubik’s Cube was very good at helping me remember that. Think in 3-D: there are always multiple sides being impacted; nothing happens in isolation.


Please share this with a friend or colleague who you know would benefit from it by using the buttons below.

You can also follow me on this blog, follow me on LinkedIn where I post other items similar to this, or send me a tweet @cabigail2.

Also, let’s start a conversation! Please comment below or send me an email at


  1. This is great insight, thank you.

    I’m delivering a presentation on Tuesday and got tangled with my children’s bickering over the Rubin’s cube and it turned out to be such a great bickering! I’m totally fascinated with this puzzle and how it applies to change management.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s