What can a Rubik’s Cube teach us about solving communications challenges?

Anguish. Annoyance. Frustration. 

These are just a few of the emotions that come to mind for those of us in PR when dealing with a troublesome pitch or especially challenging task. These same thoughts run through the mind of someone staring at the colorful madness that is a Rubik’s Cube.

What happens when we encounter a problem? The logical answer is: solve it. But what if a solution isn’t obvious to us right away? Spinning and spinning, whether it’s the metaphorical wheels of your brain or the colored levels of the cube, will get you nowhere. Enter: the Rubik’s Cube strategy.

Looking at a Rubik’s Cube is like looking at a difficult problem. Ideally, the thought process should be simple: you know the steps and what the outcome should be, but sometimes things just don’t click.

This is the case with many of the problems we run into in PR. Clients may have similar issues, but the way we approach them, the solutions and the way we go about them vary drastically. A social media campaign that worked to attract customers for one client might fall flat for another. When faced with a difficult problem with no solution in sight, picture a Rubik’s Cube and what it takes to complete the puzzle.

Take a step back and look at all sides of the problem.

The first thing you have to do when you solve a Rubik’s Cube is pick a color. Any color. Flip the cube around; spin a few levels. Got the color? Good. The next step is to solve one side. Completing one side sounds a lot more doable than six. In the real world, your “color” could be any piece of the problem. The first step is standing back and looking at it from all the angles. This will help define what exactly will go into your approach. You may not have an end in sight at this point, and that’s okay. You have somewhere to begin.

Keep calm under pressure.

You have one side solved, and you’re feeling good. Then reality sets in: anything you do now will mess up your first completed side! What do you do?! In PR, especially at the beginning of your career, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Emails are flying into your inbox at what seems like an impossible rate; client meetings are always running long, and a crisis can be around the corner at any moment. Keeping a level head and calm demeanor is key in handling any problem with ease and coming off like a seasoned pro to those around you. Take a deep breath, and you’ll be ready to take on any problems thrown your way.

Develop and Use an Algorithm.

There are proven, mathematically sound ways to solve a Rubik’s Cube in a relatively short amount of time. When it comes to solving problems, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Look for similar solutions. Don’t be afraid to look outside the realm of PR, either. You never know when you’ll be able to use those solutions to help with your problem.

Don’t give up.

Remember the confidence and positive mind set you just found? Stick with it. Don’t give up. With your Rubik’s Cube, things are bound to get a little wonky. Each step in the puzzle will seem like it’s contradicting the last, mixing up your perfect rows of color. Have faith in your actions and know that you’re doing the right thing. In the end, it will all work out. If you’re pitching like crazy and not getting any traction, pivot your strategy. Try to find a new angle or tweak your messaging. Persistence pays off in the end.

Think outside the box.

We’ve all gotten to the point where we feel like we’re going to pull our hair out in frustration. No matter what you do, it doesn’t seem like the problem is ever going to end. This is the point where you get your creative juices flowing and think outside the box. Sometimes you have to pull off the stickers and solve the puzzle your own way (As a Rubik’s Cube lover, I hate to even say this in writing). It may not be the way you set out to solve it in the beginning, but you got it done. Take risks. Be bold.

Thinking about any problem too much can be daunting. To find a solution, step back and approach it piece-by-piece, side-by-side. Don’t give up.


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