Entrepreneurs, being card-carrying members of the human species and not locked in a box for the past few months, have no doubt noticed a new addition to their social media feeds lately -- the colorful grid of boxes that indicates how your connections are doing on the viral word game Wordle

The game's many fans can skip this paragraph but for the uninitiated, Wordle asks players to guess a five-letter word in six tries, offering feedback with each guess about which letters appear in the correct answer. A new puzzle is released every day and the Wordle website makes it easy to share the grid showing how you did on that day's challenge (without giving away the answer). It also has a cute backstory -- its developer originally made it as a gift for his crossword-loving partner

The game, in other words, is sweet and simple. So why is this straightforward, if cleverly designed, word puzzle blowing up so spectacularly? (It went from one user in October to around three million now.) Plenty of experts have opinions which say something about both the quirks of the human mind and our current state of pandemic doldrums

Wordle as a virtual water cooler

Wordle isn't the first popular word puzzle in human history, of course. A little while back Words With Friends had a moment and Scrabble is obviously the granddaddy of the genre. So while Wordle is too new for scientists to have much to say about it specifically, psychologists have studied earlier word puzzles. 

On the Conversation, University of Calgary psychologist Penny Pexman outlined her own work studying pro Scrabble players recently. Her team uncovered changes in their abilities and brain structures that might interest Scrabble obsessives (sorry, there's no evidence the game makes you generally smarter or slows brain aging), but Pexman also ventures some guesses based on this work about the appeal of Wordle. 

She notes that some people are high in what psychologists call "need for cognition." People like this have a strong drive to keep their brains occupied and will always respond well to a new brain teaser. But Pexman also suggests that there's something about our collective psychological moment that makes the game more broadly appealing now. 

"With only one Wordle released per day, everyone is solving the same puzzle. The online game's sharing options also allow us to share our results with others without giving the answer away," she writes. "That means Wordle is also creating an opportunity for shared experience at a time when many people are feeling disconnected from others." 

Wordle isn't just an opportunity to occupy your idle brain, but also a way to connect with others at a time when many of us feel distanced and lonely because of the pandemic then. Pexman isn't the only one sharing this perspective. 

Speaking to Vox, University of Washington professor of communication Katy Pearce suggests that Wordle may be providing some of the same benefits people once got from watercooler chat. It's relatively low-key, something that  co-workers from different walks of life can have in common, and even makes you seem vaguely smart. 

"Wordle: an easy, low-stress way of generating conversation and achieving a straightforward daily task in an era where even daily tasks and low-key interaction are sometimes strenuous and overwhelming," writes Vox's Aja Romano, summing up this argument. 

The takeaway for bosses 

What's the takeaway here for entrepreneurs and other business leaders? Obviously that if you can come up with a product that helps people regain the sense of light, easy social connection that the pandemic has made so difficult, then you're going to have a massive hit on your hands. 

But that's a tall order. Perhaps the simpler, more actionable takeaway is that your team (in fact, pretty much everyone around you) is hungry for the simple pleasures of idle banter and aimless human company at the moment. Finding ways to build more watercooler talk, whether virtual or in person, into the day or getting better at sparking fun but lightweight conversations (suggestions here) could help make everyone a little happier, and more connected at a time when we're all searching for those feelings pretty desperately.