I love word games and puzzles. So, it’s no wonder that I’ve joined the masses playing Wordle. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the premise is that you have to guess a 5-letter word and you’ve got six chances to get it right. Each guess must be a valid word. These are the rules of the game.

After having played the game for several days, I noticed a pattern that each letter had been used only once in each day’s puzzle. In fact, at one point, my husband asked me about the game. As I explained the game and showed him my progress, he offered a possible solution that had two of the same letter in it. I explained to him that he couldn’t do that because each letter is only used once in the game.

Imagine my surprise a few days later when I was faced with a puzzle whose only solution was to use a letter twice! My belief in this rule was so strong that even as I looked at the clues and recognized a possible solution, I dismissed that solution because it would require me to use the same letter twice. I sat there for a few minutes struggling to figure out some other solution. Finally, I decided to submit the word I’d come up with, not because I thought it was correct, but because I thought it would give me more clues toward the solution. When the program came back saying that my entry was the right answer, I sat there for a moment or two just staring at it in disbelief.

This has gotten me thinking about all of the policies, processes, and practices that we think are immutable and, therefore, don’t test or question. One of the recent examples of this that we have encountered is that of remote work. The pandemic has forced us to question the “rules” of work that we had taken as indisputable. The once incontrovertible, “9 to 5, in the office,” edict that permeated much of the working world for generations, suddenly had to be reevaluated. Almost instantly, we were forced to get creative in order to keep the work going, establishing new policies, processes, practices and systems that allowed employees to contribute remotely.

Two years into it, we are beginning to grapple with what work looks like post-pandemic. It would seem that some employees, having now seen that the “9 to 5, in the office” edict isn’t essential, are reconsidering not only where they get their work done but when they work.

That is a big example, offered to illustrate my point. But, how often do we find ourselves in the middle of a situation thinking, “if only…”? If only I didn’t have to commute every day, I’d be less stressed, be able to spend more time with my loved ones, and be more productive…but we assume that it’s not possible to ask to work from home. If only I could work in blocks of time, I’d be able to get my kids ready for school and spend time with them when they get home and still feel like I’m making a meaningful contribution to the organization…but we don’t see anyone else in the company with that type of arrangement.

If only I could use the same letter twice in the word game, the solution would be so simple…