What Is Problem Solving? How Software Engineers Approach Complex Challenges

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From debugging an existing system to designing an entirely new software application, a day in the life of a software engineer is filled with various challenges and complexities. The one skill that glues these disparate tasks together and makes them manageable? Problem solving . 

Throughout this blog post, we’ll explore why problem-solving skills are so critical for software engineers, delve into the techniques they use to address complex challenges, and discuss how hiring managers can identify these skills during the hiring process. 

What Is Problem Solving?

But what exactly is problem solving in the context of software engineering? How does it work, and why is it so important?

Problem solving, in the simplest terms, is the process of identifying a problem, analyzing it, and finding the most effective solution to overcome it. For software engineers, this process is deeply embedded in their daily workflow. It could be something as simple as figuring out why a piece of code isn’t working as expected, or something as complex as designing the architecture for a new software system. 

In a world where technology is evolving at a blistering pace, the complexity and volume of problems that software engineers face are also growing. As such, the ability to tackle these issues head-on and find innovative solutions is not only a handy skill — it’s a necessity. 

The Importance of Problem-Solving Skills for Software Engineers

Problem-solving isn’t just another ability that software engineers pull out of their toolkits when they encounter a bug or a system failure. It’s a constant, ongoing process that’s intrinsic to every aspect of their work. Let’s break down why this skill is so critical.

Driving Development Forward

Without problem solving, software development would hit a standstill. Every new feature, every optimization, and every bug fix is a problem that needs solving. Whether it’s a performance issue that needs diagnosing or a user interface that needs improving, the capacity to tackle and solve these problems is what keeps the wheels of development turning.

It’s estimated that 60% of software development lifecycle costs are related to maintenance tasks, including debugging and problem solving. This highlights how pivotal this skill is to the everyday functioning and advancement of software systems.

Innovation and Optimization

The importance of problem solving isn’t confined to reactive scenarios; it also plays a major role in proactive, innovative initiatives . Software engineers often need to think outside the box to come up with creative solutions, whether it’s optimizing an algorithm to run faster or designing a new feature to meet customer needs. These are all forms of problem solving.

Consider the development of the modern smartphone. It wasn’t born out of a pre-existing issue but was a solution to a problem people didn’t realize they had — a device that combined communication, entertainment, and productivity into one handheld tool.

Increasing Efficiency and Productivity

Good problem-solving skills can save a lot of time and resources. Effective problem-solvers are adept at dissecting an issue to understand its root cause, thus reducing the time spent on trial and error. This efficiency means projects move faster, releases happen sooner, and businesses stay ahead of their competition.

Improving Software Quality

Problem solving also plays a significant role in enhancing the quality of the end product. By tackling the root causes of bugs and system failures, software engineers can deliver reliable, high-performing software. This is critical because, according to the Consortium for Information and Software Quality, poor quality software in the U.S. in 2022 cost at least $2.41 trillion in operational issues, wasted developer time, and other related problems.

Problem-Solving Techniques in Software Engineering

So how do software engineers go about tackling these complex challenges? Let’s explore some of the key problem-solving techniques, theories, and processes they commonly use.


Breaking down a problem into smaller, manageable parts is one of the first steps in the problem-solving process. It’s like dealing with a complicated puzzle. You don’t try to solve it all at once. Instead, you separate the pieces, group them based on similarities, and then start working on the smaller sets. This method allows software engineers to handle complex issues without being overwhelmed and makes it easier to identify where things might be going wrong.


In the realm of software engineering, abstraction means focusing on the necessary information only and ignoring irrelevant details. It is a way of simplifying complex systems to make them easier to understand and manage. For instance, a software engineer might ignore the details of how a database works to focus on the information it holds and how to retrieve or modify that information.

Algorithmic Thinking

At its core, software engineering is about creating algorithms — step-by-step procedures to solve a problem or accomplish a goal. Algorithmic thinking involves conceiving and expressing these procedures clearly and accurately and viewing every problem through an algorithmic lens. A well-designed algorithm not only solves the problem at hand but also does so efficiently, saving computational resources.

Parallel Thinking

Parallel thinking is a structured process where team members think in the same direction at the same time, allowing for more organized discussion and collaboration. It’s an approach popularized by Edward de Bono with the “ Six Thinking Hats ” technique, where each “hat” represents a different style of thinking.

In the context of software engineering, parallel thinking can be highly effective for problem solving. For instance, when dealing with a complex issue, the team can use the “White Hat” to focus solely on the data and facts about the problem, then the “Black Hat” to consider potential problems with a proposed solution, and so on. This structured approach can lead to more comprehensive analysis and more effective solutions, and it ensures that everyone’s perspectives are considered.

This is the process of identifying and fixing errors in code . Debugging involves carefully reviewing the code, reproducing and analyzing the error, and then making necessary modifications to rectify the problem. It’s a key part of maintaining and improving software quality.

Testing and Validation

Testing is an essential part of problem solving in software engineering. Engineers use a variety of tests to verify that their code works as expected and to uncover any potential issues. These range from unit tests that check individual components of the code to integration tests that ensure the pieces work well together. Validation, on the other hand, ensures that the solution not only works but also fulfills the intended requirements and objectives.

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Evaluating Problem-Solving Skills

We’ve examined the importance of problem-solving in the work of a software engineer and explored various techniques software engineers employ to approach complex challenges. Now, let’s delve into how hiring teams can identify and evaluate problem-solving skills during the hiring process.

Recognizing Problem-Solving Skills in Candidates

How can you tell if a candidate is a good problem solver? Look for these indicators:

  • Previous Experience: A history of dealing with complex, challenging projects is often a good sign. Ask the candidate to discuss a difficult problem they faced in a previous role and how they solved it.
  • Problem-Solving Questions: During interviews, pose hypothetical scenarios or present real problems your company has faced. Ask candidates to explain how they would tackle these issues. You’re not just looking for a correct solution but the thought process that led them there.
  • Technical Tests: Coding challenges and other technical tests can provide insight into a candidate’s problem-solving abilities. Consider leveraging a platform for assessing these skills in a realistic, job-related context.

Assessing Problem-Solving Skills

Once you’ve identified potential problem solvers, here are a few ways you can assess their skills:

  • Solution Effectiveness: Did the candidate solve the problem? How efficient and effective is their solution?
  • Approach and Process: Go beyond whether or not they solved the problem and examine how they arrived at their solution. Did they break the problem down into manageable parts? Did they consider different perspectives and possibilities?
  • Communication: A good problem solver can explain their thought process clearly. Can the candidate effectively communicate how they arrived at their solution and why they chose it?
  • Adaptability: Problem-solving often involves a degree of trial and error. How does the candidate handle roadblocks? Do they adapt their approach based on new information or feedback?

Hiring managers play a crucial role in identifying and fostering problem-solving skills within their teams. By focusing on these abilities during the hiring process, companies can build teams that are more capable, innovative, and resilient.

Key Takeaways

As you can see, problem solving plays a pivotal role in software engineering. Far from being an occasional requirement, it is the lifeblood that drives development forward, catalyzes innovation, and delivers of quality software. 

By leveraging problem-solving techniques, software engineers employ a powerful suite of strategies to overcome complex challenges. But mastering these techniques isn’t simple feat. It requires a learning mindset, regular practice, collaboration, reflective thinking, resilience, and a commitment to staying updated with industry trends. 

For hiring managers and team leads, recognizing these skills and fostering a culture that values and nurtures problem solving is key. It’s this emphasis on problem solving that can differentiate an average team from a high-performing one and an ordinary product from an industry-leading one.

At the end of the day, software engineering is fundamentally about solving problems — problems that matter to businesses, to users, and to the wider society. And it’s the proficient problem solvers who stand at the forefront of this dynamic field, turning challenges into opportunities, and ideas into reality.

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Problem Solving Using Computer (Steps)

Computer based problem solving is a systematic process of designing, implementing and using programming tools during the problem solving stage. This method enables the computer system to be more intuitive with human logic than machine logic. Final outcome of this process is software tools which is dedicated to solve the problem under consideration. Software is just a collection of computer programs and programs are a set of instructions which guides computer’s hardware. These instructions need to be well specified for solving the problem. After its creation, the software should be error free and well documented. Software development is the process of creating such software, which satisfies end user’s requirements and needs.

The following six steps must be followed to solve a problem using computer.

  • Problem Analysis
  • Program Design - Algorithm, Flowchart and Pseudocode
  • Compilation and Execution
  • Debugging and Testing
  • Program Documentation

Exploring the Problem Solving Cycle in Computer Science – Strategies, Techniques, and Tools

  • Post author By bicycle-u
  • Post date 08.12.2023

The world of computer science is built on the foundation of problem solving. Whether it’s finding a solution to a complex algorithm or analyzing data to make informed decisions, the problem solving cycle is at the core of every computer science endeavor.

At its essence, problem solving in computer science involves breaking down a complex problem into smaller, more manageable parts. This allows for a systematic approach to finding a solution by analyzing each part individually. The process typically starts with gathering and understanding the data or information related to the problem at hand.

Once the data is collected, computer scientists use various techniques and algorithms to analyze and explore possible solutions. This involves evaluating different approaches and considering factors such as efficiency, accuracy, and scalability. During this analysis phase, it is crucial to think critically and creatively to come up with innovative solutions.

After a thorough analysis, the next step in the problem solving cycle is designing and implementing a solution. This involves creating a detailed plan of action, selecting the appropriate tools and technologies, and writing the necessary code to bring the solution to life. Attention to detail and precision are key in this stage to ensure that the solution functions as intended.

The final step in the problem solving cycle is evaluating the solution and its effectiveness. This includes testing the solution against different scenarios and data sets to ensure its reliability and performance. If any issues or limitations are discovered, adjustments and optimizations are made to improve the solution.

In conclusion, the problem solving cycle is a fundamental process in computer science, involving analysis, data exploration, algorithm development, solution implementation, and evaluation. It is through this cycle that computer scientists are able to tackle complex problems and create innovative solutions that drive progress in the field of computer science.

Understanding the Importance

In computer science, problem solving is a crucial skill that is at the core of the problem solving cycle. The problem solving cycle is a systematic approach to analyzing and solving problems, involving various stages such as problem identification, analysis, algorithm design, implementation, and evaluation. Understanding the importance of this cycle is essential for any computer scientist or programmer.

Data Analysis and Algorithm Design

The first step in the problem solving cycle is problem identification, which involves recognizing and defining the issue at hand. Once the problem is identified, the next crucial step is data analysis. This involves gathering and examining relevant data to gain insights and understand the problem better. Data analysis helps in identifying patterns, trends, and potential solutions.

After data analysis, the next step is algorithm design. An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure or set of rules to solve a problem. Designing an efficient algorithm is crucial as it determines the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution. A well-designed algorithm takes into consideration the constraints, resources, and desired outcomes while implementing the solution.

Implementation and Evaluation

Once the algorithm is designed, the next step in the problem solving cycle is implementation. This involves translating the algorithm into a computer program using a programming language. The implementation phase requires coding skills and expertise in a specific programming language.

After implementation, the solution needs to be evaluated to ensure that it solves the problem effectively. Evaluation involves testing the program and verifying its correctness and efficiency. This step is critical to identify any errors or issues and to make necessary improvements or adjustments.

In conclusion, understanding the importance of the problem solving cycle in computer science is essential for any computer scientist or programmer. It provides a systematic and structured approach to analyze and solve problems, ensuring efficient and effective solutions. By following the problem solving cycle, computer scientists can develop robust algorithms, implement them in efficient programs, and evaluate their solutions to ensure their correctness and efficiency.

Identifying the Problem

In the problem solving cycle in computer science, the first step is to identify the problem that needs to be solved. This step is crucial because without a clear understanding of the problem, it is impossible to find a solution.

Identification of the problem involves a thorough analysis of the given data and understanding the goals of the task at hand. It requires careful examination of the problem statement and any constraints or limitations that may affect the solution.

During the identification phase, the problem is broken down into smaller, more manageable parts. This can involve breaking the problem down into sub-problems or identifying the different aspects or components that need to be addressed.

Identifying the problem also involves considering the resources and tools available for solving it. This may include considering the specific tools and programming languages that are best suited for the problem at hand.

By properly identifying the problem, computer scientists can ensure that they are focused on the right goals and are better equipped to find an effective and efficient solution. It sets the stage for the rest of the problem solving cycle, including the analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation phases.

Gathering the Necessary Data

Before finding a solution to a computer science problem, it is essential to gather the necessary data. Whether it’s writing a program or developing an algorithm, data serves as the backbone of any solution. Without proper data collection and analysis, the problem-solving process can become inefficient and ineffective.

The Importance of Data

In computer science, data is crucial for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it provides the information needed to understand and define the problem at hand. By analyzing the available data, developers and programmers can gain insights into the nature of the problem and determine the most efficient approach for solving it.

Additionally, data allows for the evaluation of potential solutions. By collecting and organizing relevant data, it becomes possible to compare different algorithms or strategies and select the most suitable one. Data also helps in tracking progress and measuring the effectiveness of the chosen solution.

Data Gathering Process

The process of gathering data involves several steps. Firstly, it is necessary to identify the type of data needed for the particular problem. This may include numerical values, textual information, or other types of data. It is important to determine the sources of data and assess their reliability.

Once the required data has been identified, it needs to be collected. This can be done through various methods, such as surveys, experiments, observations, or by accessing existing data sets. The collected data should be properly organized, ensuring its accuracy and validity.

Data cleaning and preprocessing are vital steps in the data gathering process. This involves removing any irrelevant or erroneous data and transforming it into a suitable format for analysis. Properly cleaned and preprocessed data will help in generating reliable and meaningful insights.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

After gathering and preprocessing the data, the next step is data analysis and interpretation. This involves applying various statistical and analytical methods to uncover patterns, trends, and relationships within the data. By analyzing the data, programmers can gain valuable insights that can inform the development of an effective solution.

During the data analysis process, it is crucial to remain objective and unbiased. The analysis should be based on sound reasoning and logical thinking. It is also important to communicate the findings effectively, using visualizations or summaries to convey the information to stakeholders or fellow developers.

In conclusion, gathering the necessary data is a fundamental step in solving computer science problems. It provides the foundation for understanding the problem, evaluating potential solutions, and tracking progress. By following a systematic and rigorous approach to data gathering and analysis, developers can ensure that their solutions are efficient, effective, and well-informed.

Analyzing the Data

Once you have collected the necessary data, the next step in the problem-solving cycle is to analyze it. Data analysis is a crucial component of computer science, as it helps us understand the problem at hand and develop effective solutions.

To analyze the data, you need to break it down into manageable pieces and examine each piece closely. This process involves identifying patterns, trends, and outliers that may be present in the data. By doing so, you can gain insights into the problem and make informed decisions about the best course of action.

There are several techniques and tools available for data analysis in computer science. Some common methods include statistical analysis, data visualization, and machine learning algorithms. Each approach has its own strengths and limitations, so it’s essential to choose the most appropriate method for the problem you are solving.

Statistical Analysis

Statistical analysis involves using mathematical models and techniques to analyze data. It helps in identifying correlations, distributions, and other statistical properties of the data. By applying statistical tests, you can determine the significance and validity of your findings.

Data Visualization

Data visualization is the process of presenting data in a visual format, such as charts, graphs, or maps. It allows for a better understanding of complex data sets and facilitates the communication of findings. Through data visualization, patterns and trends can become more apparent, making it easier to derive meaningful insights.

Machine Learning Algorithms

Machine learning algorithms are powerful tools for analyzing large and complex data sets. These algorithms can automatically detect patterns and relationships in the data, leading to the development of predictive models and solutions. By training the algorithm on a labeled dataset, it can learn from the data and make accurate predictions or classifications.

In conclusion, analyzing the data is a critical step in the problem-solving cycle in computer science. It helps us gain a deeper understanding of the problem and develop effective solutions. Whether through statistical analysis, data visualization, or machine learning algorithms, data analysis plays a vital role in transforming raw data into actionable insights.

Exploring Possible Solutions

Once you have gathered data and completed the analysis, the next step in the problem-solving cycle is to explore possible solutions. This is where the true power of computer science comes into play. With the use of algorithms and the application of scientific principles, computer scientists can develop innovative solutions to complex problems.

During this stage, it is important to consider a variety of potential solutions. This involves brainstorming different ideas and considering their feasibility and potential effectiveness. It may be helpful to consult with colleagues or experts in the field to gather additional insights and perspectives.

Developing an Algorithm

One key aspect of exploring possible solutions is the development of an algorithm. An algorithm is a step-by-step set of instructions that outlines a specific process or procedure. In the context of problem solving in computer science, an algorithm provides a clear roadmap for implementing a solution.

The development of an algorithm requires careful thought and consideration. It is important to break down the problem into smaller, manageable steps and clearly define the inputs and outputs of each step. This allows for the creation of a logical and efficient solution.

Evaluating the Solutions

Once you have developed potential solutions and corresponding algorithms, the next step is to evaluate them. This involves analyzing each solution to determine its strengths, weaknesses, and potential impact. Consider factors such as efficiency, scalability, and resource requirements.

It may be helpful to conduct experiments or simulations to further assess the effectiveness of each solution. This can provide valuable insights and data to support the decision-making process.

Ultimately, the goal of exploring possible solutions is to find the most effective and efficient solution to the problem at hand. By leveraging the power of data, analysis, algorithms, and scientific principles, computer scientists can develop innovative solutions that drive progress and solve complex problems in the world of technology.

Evaluating the Options

Once you have identified potential solutions and algorithms for a problem, the next step in the problem-solving cycle in computer science is to evaluate the options. This evaluation process involves analyzing the potential solutions and algorithms based on various criteria to determine the best course of action.

Consider the Problem

Before evaluating the options, it is important to take a step back and consider the problem at hand. Understand the requirements, constraints, and desired outcomes of the problem. This analysis will help guide the evaluation process.

Analyze the Options

Next, it is crucial to analyze each solution or algorithm option individually. Look at factors such as efficiency, accuracy, ease of implementation, and scalability. Consider whether the solution or algorithm meets the specific requirements of the problem, and if it can be applied to related problems in the future.

Additionally, evaluate the potential risks and drawbacks associated with each option. Consider factors such as cost, time, and resources required for implementation. Assess any potential limitations or trade-offs that may impact the overall effectiveness of the solution or algorithm.

Select the Best Option

Based on the analysis, select the best option that aligns with the specific problem-solving goals. This may involve prioritizing certain criteria or making compromises based on the limitations identified during the evaluation process.

Remember that the best option may not always be the most technically complex or advanced solution. Consider the practicality and feasibility of implementation, as well as the potential impact on the overall system or project.

In conclusion, evaluating the options is a critical step in the problem-solving cycle in computer science. By carefully analyzing the potential solutions and algorithms, considering the problem requirements, and considering the limitations and trade-offs, you can select the best option to solve the problem at hand.

Making a Decision

Decision-making is a critical component in the problem-solving process in computer science. Once you have analyzed the problem, identified the relevant data, and generated a potential solution, it is important to evaluate your options and choose the best course of action.

Consider All Factors

When making a decision, it is important to consider all relevant factors. This includes evaluating the potential benefits and drawbacks of each option, as well as understanding any constraints or limitations that may impact your choice.

In computer science, this may involve analyzing the efficiency of different algorithms or considering the scalability of a proposed solution. It is important to take into account both the short-term and long-term impacts of your decision.

Weigh the Options

Once you have considered all the factors, it is important to weigh the options and determine the best approach. This may involve assigning weights or priorities to different factors based on their importance.

Using techniques such as decision matrices or cost-benefit analysis can help you systematically compare and evaluate different options. By quantifying and assessing the potential risks and rewards, you can make a more informed decision.

Remember: Decision-making in computer science is not purely subjective or based on personal preference. It is crucial to use analytical and logical thinking to select the most optimal solution.

In conclusion, making a decision is a crucial step in the problem-solving process in computer science. By considering all relevant factors and weighing the options using logical analysis, you can choose the best possible solution to a given problem.

Implementing the Solution

Once the problem has been analyzed and a solution has been proposed, the next step in the problem-solving cycle in computer science is implementing the solution. This involves turning the proposed solution into an actual computer program or algorithm that can solve the problem.

In order to implement the solution, computer science professionals need to have a strong understanding of various programming languages and data structures. They need to be able to write code that can manipulate and process data in order to solve the problem at hand.

During the implementation phase, the proposed solution is translated into a series of steps or instructions that a computer can understand and execute. This involves breaking down the problem into smaller sub-problems and designing algorithms to solve each sub-problem.

Computer scientists also need to consider the efficiency of their solution during the implementation phase. They need to ensure that the algorithm they design is able to handle large amounts of data and solve the problem in a reasonable amount of time. This often requires optimization techniques and careful consideration of the data structures used.

Once the code has been written and the algorithm has been implemented, it is important to test and debug the solution. This involves running test cases and checking the output to ensure that the program is working correctly. If any errors or bugs are found, they need to be fixed before the solution can be considered complete.

In conclusion, implementing the solution is a crucial step in the problem-solving cycle in computer science. It requires strong programming skills and a deep understanding of algorithms and data structures. By carefully designing and implementing the solution, computer scientists can solve problems efficiently and effectively.

Testing and Debugging

In computer science, testing and debugging are critical steps in the problem-solving cycle. Testing helps ensure that a program or algorithm is functioning correctly, while debugging analyzes and resolves any issues or bugs that may arise.

Testing involves running a program with specific input data to evaluate its output. This process helps verify that the program produces the expected results and handles different scenarios correctly. It is important to test both the normal and edge cases to ensure the program’s reliability.

Debugging is the process of identifying and fixing errors or bugs in a program. When a program does not produce the expected results or crashes, it is necessary to go through the code to find and fix the problem. This can involve analyzing the program’s logic, checking for syntax errors, and using debugging tools to trace the flow of data and identify the source of the issue.

Data analysis plays a crucial role in both testing and debugging. It helps to identify patterns, anomalies, or inconsistencies in the program’s behavior. By analyzing the data, developers can gain insights into potential issues and make informed decisions on how to improve the program’s performance.

In conclusion, testing and debugging are integral parts of the problem-solving cycle in computer science. Through testing and data analysis, developers can verify the correctness of their programs and identify and resolve any issues that may arise. This ensures that the algorithms and programs developed in computer science are robust, reliable, and efficient.

Iterating for Improvement

In computer science, problem solving often involves iterating through multiple cycles of analysis, solution development, and evaluation. This iterative process allows for continuous improvement in finding the most effective solution to a given problem.

The problem solving cycle starts with problem analysis, where the specific problem is identified and its requirements are understood. This step involves examining the problem from various angles and gathering all relevant information.

Once the problem is properly understood, the next step is to develop an algorithm or a step-by-step plan to solve the problem. This algorithm is a set of instructions that, when followed correctly, will lead to the solution.

After the algorithm is developed, it is implemented in a computer program. This step involves translating the algorithm into a programming language that a computer can understand and execute.

Once the program is implemented, it is then tested and evaluated to ensure that it produces the correct solution. This evaluation step is crucial in identifying any errors or inefficiencies in the program and allows for further improvement.

If any issues or problems are found during testing, the cycle iterates, starting from problem analysis again. This iterative process allows for refinement and improvement of the solution until the desired results are achieved.

Iterating for improvement is a fundamental concept in computer science problem solving. By continually analyzing, developing, and evaluating solutions, computer scientists are able to find the most optimal and efficient approaches to solving problems.

Step Description
Problem Analysis Identifying and understanding the problem
Solution Development Creating an algorithm to solve the problem
Implementation Translating the algorithm into a computer program
Evaluation Testing and evaluating the program for correctness
Iteration Repeating the cycle for further improvement

Documenting the Process

Documenting the problem-solving process in computer science is an essential step to ensure that the cycle is repeated successfully. The process involves gathering information, analyzing the problem, and designing a solution.

During the analysis phase, it is crucial to identify the specific problem at hand and break it down into smaller components. This allows for a more targeted approach to finding the solution. Additionally, analyzing the data involved in the problem can provide valuable insights and help in designing an effective solution.

Once the analysis is complete, it is important to document the findings. This documentation can take various forms, such as written reports, diagrams, or even code comments. The goal is to create a record that captures the problem, the analysis, and the proposed solution.

Documenting the process serves several purposes. Firstly, it allows for easy communication and collaboration between team members or future developers. By documenting the problem, analysis, and solution, others can easily understand the thought process behind the solution and potentially build upon it.

Secondly, documenting the process provides an opportunity for reflection and improvement. By reviewing the documentation, developers can identify areas where the problem-solving cycle can be strengthened or optimized. This continuous improvement is crucial in the field of computer science, as new challenges and technologies emerge rapidly.

In conclusion, documenting the problem-solving process is an integral part of the computer science cycle. It allows for effective communication, collaboration, and reflection on the solutions devised. By taking the time to document the process, developers can ensure a more efficient and successful problem-solving experience.

Communicating the Solution

Once the problem solving cycle is complete, it is important to effectively communicate the solution. This involves explaining the analysis, data, and steps taken to arrive at the solution.

Analyzing the Problem

During the problem solving cycle, a thorough analysis of the problem is conducted. This includes understanding the problem statement, gathering relevant data, and identifying any constraints or limitations. It is important to clearly communicate this analysis to ensure that others understand the problem at hand.

Presenting the Solution

The next step in communicating the solution is presenting the actual solution. This should include a detailed explanation of the steps taken to solve the problem, as well as any algorithms or data structures used. It is important to provide clear and concise descriptions of the solution, so that others can understand and reproduce the results.

Overall, effective communication of the solution in computer science is essential to ensure that others can understand and replicate the problem solving process. By clearly explaining the analysis, data, and steps taken, the solution can be communicated in a way that promotes understanding and collaboration within the field of computer science.

Reflecting and Learning

Reflecting and learning are crucial steps in the problem solving cycle in computer science. Once a problem has been solved, it is essential to reflect on the entire process and learn from the experience. This allows for continuous improvement and growth in the field of computer science.

During the reflecting phase, one must analyze and evaluate the problem solving process. This involves reviewing the initial problem statement, understanding the constraints and requirements, and assessing the effectiveness of the chosen algorithm and solution. It is important to consider the efficiency and accuracy of the solution, as well as any potential limitations or areas for optimization.

By reflecting on the problem solving cycle, computer scientists can gain valuable insights into their own strengths and weaknesses. They can identify areas where they excelled and areas where improvement is needed. This self-analysis helps in honing problem solving skills and becoming a better problem solver.

Learning from Mistakes

Mistakes are an integral part of the problem solving cycle, and they provide valuable learning opportunities. When a problem is not successfully solved, it is essential to analyze the reasons behind the failure and learn from them. This involves identifying errors in the algorithm or solution, understanding the underlying concepts or principles that were misunderstood, and finding alternative approaches or strategies.

Failure should not be seen as a setback, but rather as an opportunity for growth. By learning from mistakes, computer scientists can improve their problem solving abilities and expand their knowledge and understanding of computer science. It is through these failures and the subsequent learning process that new ideas and innovations are often born.

Continuous Improvement

Reflecting and learning should not be limited to individual problem solving experiences, but should be an ongoing practice. As computer science is a rapidly evolving field, it is crucial to stay updated with new technologies, algorithms, and problem solving techniques. Continuous learning and improvement contribute to staying competitive and relevant in the field.

Computer scientists can engage in continuous improvement by seeking feedback from peers, participating in research and development activities, attending conferences and workshops, and actively seeking new challenges and problem solving opportunities. This dedication to learning and improvement ensures that one’s problem solving skills remain sharp and effective.

In conclusion, reflecting and learning are integral parts of the problem solving cycle in computer science. They enable computer scientists to refine their problem solving abilities, learn from mistakes, and continuously improve their skills and knowledge. By embracing these steps, computer scientists can stay at the forefront of the ever-changing world of computer science and contribute to its advancements.

Applying Problem Solving in Real Life

In computer science, problem solving is not limited to the realm of programming and algorithms. It is a skill that can be applied to various aspects of our daily lives, helping us to solve problems efficiently and effectively. By using the problem-solving cycle and applying the principles of analysis, data, solution, algorithm, and cycle, we can tackle real-life challenges with confidence and success.

The first step in problem-solving is to analyze the problem at hand. This involves breaking it down into smaller, more manageable parts and identifying the key issues or goals. By understanding the problem thoroughly, we can gain insights into its root causes and potential solutions.

For example, let’s say you’re facing a recurring issue in your daily commute – traffic congestion. By analyzing the problem, you may discover that the main causes are a lack of alternative routes and a lack of communication between drivers. This analysis helps you identify potential solutions such as using navigation apps to find alternate routes or promoting carpooling to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

Gathering and Analyzing Data

Once we have identified the problem, it is important to gather relevant data to support our analysis. This may involve conducting surveys, collecting statistics, or reviewing existing research. By gathering data, we can make informed decisions and prioritize potential solutions based on their impact and feasibility.

Continuing with the traffic congestion example, you may gather data on the average commute time, the number of vehicles on the road, and the impact of carpooling on congestion levels. This data can help you analyze the problem more accurately and determine the most effective solutions.

Generating and Evaluating Solutions

After analyzing the problem and gathering data, the next step is to generate potential solutions. This can be done through brainstorming, researching best practices, or seeking input from experts. It is important to consider multiple options and think outside the box to find innovative and effective solutions.

For our traffic congestion problem, potential solutions can include implementing a smart traffic management system that optimizes traffic flow or investing in public transportation to incentivize people to leave their cars at home. By evaluating each solution’s potential impact, cost, and feasibility, you can make an informed decision on the best course of action.

Implementing and Iterating

Once a solution has been chosen, it is time to implement it in real life. This may involve developing a plan, allocating resources, and executing the solution. It is important to monitor the progress and collect feedback to learn from the implementation and make necessary adjustments.

For example, if the chosen solution to address traffic congestion is implementing a smart traffic management system, you would work with engineers and transportation authorities to develop and deploy the system. Regular evaluation and iteration of the system’s performance would ensure that it is effective and making a positive impact on reducing congestion.

By applying the problem-solving cycle derived from computer science to real-life situations, we can approach challenges with a systematic and analytical mindset. This can help us make better decisions, improve our problem-solving skills, and ultimately achieve more efficient and effective solutions.

Building Problem Solving Skills

In the field of computer science, problem-solving is a fundamental skill that is crucial for success. Whether you are a computer scientist, programmer, or student, developing strong problem-solving skills will greatly benefit your work and studies. It allows you to approach challenges with a logical and systematic approach, leading to efficient and effective problem resolution.

The Problem Solving Cycle

Problem-solving in computer science involves a cyclical process known as the problem-solving cycle. This cycle consists of several stages, including problem identification, data analysis, solution development, implementation, and evaluation. By following this cycle, computer scientists are able to tackle complex problems and arrive at optimal solutions.

Importance of Data Analysis

Data analysis is a critical step in the problem-solving cycle. It involves gathering and examining relevant data to gain insights and identify patterns that can inform the development of a solution. Without proper data analysis, computer scientists may overlook important information or make unfounded assumptions, leading to subpar solutions.

To effectively analyze data, computer scientists can employ various techniques such as data visualization, statistical analysis, and machine learning algorithms. These tools enable them to extract meaningful information from large datasets and make informed decisions during the problem-solving process.

Developing Effective Solutions

Developing effective solutions requires creativity, critical thinking, and logical reasoning. Computer scientists must evaluate multiple approaches, consider various factors, and assess the feasibility of different solutions. They should also consider potential limitations and trade-offs to ensure that the chosen solution addresses the problem effectively.

Furthermore, collaboration and communication skills are vital when building problem-solving skills. Computer scientists often work in teams and need to effectively communicate their ideas, propose solutions, and address any challenges that arise during the problem-solving process. Strong interpersonal skills facilitate collaboration and enhance problem-solving outcomes.

  • Mastering programming languages and algorithms
  • Staying updated with technological advancements in the field
  • Practicing problem solving through coding challenges and projects
  • Seeking feedback and learning from mistakes
  • Continuing to learn and improve problem-solving skills

By following these strategies, individuals can strengthen their problem-solving abilities and become more effective computer scientists or programmers. Problem-solving is an essential skill in computer science and plays a central role in driving innovation and advancing the field.

Questions and answers:

What is the problem solving cycle in computer science.

The problem solving cycle in computer science refers to a systematic approach that programmers use to solve problems. It involves several steps, including problem definition, algorithm design, implementation, testing, and debugging.

How important is the problem solving cycle in computer science?

The problem solving cycle is extremely important in computer science as it allows programmers to effectively tackle complex problems and develop efficient solutions. It helps in organizing the thought process and ensures that the problem is approached in a logical and systematic manner.

What are the steps involved in the problem solving cycle?

The problem solving cycle typically consists of the following steps: problem definition and analysis, algorithm design, implementation, testing, and debugging. These steps are repeated as necessary until a satisfactory solution is achieved.

Can you explain the problem definition and analysis step in the problem solving cycle?

During the problem definition and analysis step, the programmer identifies and thoroughly understands the problem that needs to be solved. This involves analyzing the requirements, constraints, and possible inputs and outputs. It is important to have a clear understanding of the problem before proceeding to the next steps.

Why is testing and debugging an important step in the problem solving cycle?

Testing and debugging are important steps in the problem solving cycle because they ensure that the implemented solution functions as intended and is free from errors. Through testing, the programmer can identify and fix any issues or bugs in the code, thereby improving the quality and reliability of the solution.

What is the problem-solving cycle in computer science?

The problem-solving cycle in computer science refers to the systematic approach that computer scientists use to solve problems. It involves various steps, including problem analysis, algorithm design, coding, testing, and debugging.

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How to Solve Coding Problems with a Simple Four Step Method

Madison Kanna

I had fifteen minutes left, and I knew I was going to fail.

I had spent two months studying for my first technical interview.

I thought I was prepared, but as the interview came to a close, it hit me: I had no idea how to solve coding problems.

Of all the tutorials I had taken when I was learning to code, not one of them had included an approach to solving coding problems.

I had to find a method for problem-solving—my career as a developer depended on it.

I immediately began researching methods. And I found one. In fact, what I uncovered was an invaluable strategy. It was a time-tested four-step method that was somehow under the radar in the developer ecosystem.

In this article, I’ll go over this four-step problem-solving method that you can use to start confidently solving coding problems.

Solving coding problems is not only part of the developer job interview process—it’s what a developer does all day. After all, writing code is problem-solving.

A method for solving problems

This method is from the book How to Solve It by George Pólya. It originally came out in 1945 and has sold over one million copies.

His problem-solving method has been used and taught by many programmers, from computer science professors (see Udacity’s Intro to CS course taught by professor David Evans) to modern web development teachers like Colt Steele.

Let’s walk through solving a simple coding problem using the four-step problem-solving method. This allows us to see the method in action as we learn it. We'll use JavaScript as our language of choice. Here’s the problem:

Create a function that adds together two numbers and returns that value. There are four steps to the problem-solving method:

  • Understand the problem.
  • Devise a plan.
  • Carry out the plan.

Let’s get started with step one.

Step 1: Understand the problem.

When given a coding problem in an interview, it’s tempting to rush into coding. This is hard to avoid, especially if you have a time limit.

However, try to resist this urge. Make sure you actually understand the problem before you get started with solving it.

Read through the problem. If you’re in an interview, you could read through the problem out loud if that helps you slow down.

As you read through the problem, clarify any part of it you do not understand. If you’re in an interview, you can do this by asking your interviewer questions about the problem description. If you’re on your own, think through and/or Google parts of the question you might not understand.

This first step is vital as we often don’t take the time to fully understand the problem. When you don’t fully understand the problem, you’ll have a much harder time solving it.

To help you better understand the problem, ask yourself:

What are the inputs?

What kinds of inputs will go into this problem? In this example, the inputs are the arguments that our function will take.

Just from reading the problem description so far, we know that the inputs will be numbers. But to be more specific about what the inputs will be, we can ask:

Will the inputs always be just two numbers? What should happen if our function receives as input three numbers?

Here we could ask the interviewer for clarification, or look at the problem description further.

The coding problem might have a note saying, “You should only ever expect two inputs into the function.” If so, you know how to proceed. You can get more specific, as you’ll likely realize that you need to ask more questions on what kinds of inputs you might be receiving.

Will the inputs always be numbers? What should our function do if we receive the inputs “a” and “b”? Clarify whether or not our function will always take in numbers.

Optionally, you could write down possible inputs in a code comment to get a sense of what they’ll look like:

//inputs: 2, 4

What are the outputs?

What will this function return? In this case, the output will be one number that is the result of the two number inputs. Make sure you understand what your outputs will be.

Create some examples.

Once you have a grasp of the problem and know the possible inputs and outputs, you can start working on some concrete examples.

Examples can also be used as sanity checks to test your eventual problem. Most code challenge editors that you’ll work in (whether it’s in an interview or just using a site like Codewars or HackerRank) have examples or test cases already written for you. Even so, writing out your own examples can help you cement your understanding of the problem.

Start with a simple example or two of possible inputs and outputs. Let's return to our addition function.

Let’s call our function “add.”

What’s an example input? Example input might be:

// add(2, 3)

What is the output to this? To write the example output, we can write:

// add(2, 3) ---> 5

This indicates that our function will take in an input of 2 and 3 and return 5 as its output.

Create complex examples.

By walking through more complex examples, you can take the time to look for edge cases you might need to account for.

For example, what should we do if our inputs are strings instead of numbers? What if we have as input two strings, for example, add('a', 'b')?

Your interviewer might possibly tell you to return an error message if there are any inputs that are not numbers. If so, you can add a code comment to handle this case if it helps you remember you need to do this.

Your interviewer might also tell you to assume that your inputs will always be numbers, in which case you don’t need to write any extra code to handle this particular input edge case.

If you don’t have an interviewer and you’re just solving this problem, the problem might say what happens when you enter invalid inputs.

For example, some problems will say, “If there are zero inputs, return undefined.” For cases like this, you can optionally write a comment.

// check if there are no inputs.

// If no inputs, return undefined.

For our purposes, we’ll assume that our inputs will always be numbers. But generally, it’s good to think about edge cases.

Computer science professor Evans says to write what developers call defensive code. Think about what could go wrong and how your code could defend against possible errors.  

Before we move on to step 2, let’s summarize step 1, understand the problem:

-Read through the problem.

-What are the inputs?

-What are the outputs?

Create simple examples, then create more complex ones.

2. Devise a plan for solving the problem.

Next, devise a plan for how you’ll solve the problem. As you devise a plan, write it out in pseudocode.

Pseudocode is a plain language description of the steps in an algorithm. In other words, your pseudocode is your step-by-step plan for how to solve the problem.

Write out the steps you need to take to solve the problem. For a more complicated problem, you’d have more steps. For this problem, you could write:

// Create a sum variable.

Add the first input to the second input using the addition operator .

// Store value of both inputs into sum variable.

// Return as output the sum variable. Now you have your step-by-step plan to solve the problem. For more complex problems, professor Evans notes, “Consider systematically how a human solves the problem.” That is, forget about how your code might solve the problem for a moment, and think about how you would solve it as a human. This can help you see the steps more clearly.

3. Carry out the plan (Solve the problem!)

Hand, Rubik, Cube, Puzzle, Game, Rubik Cube

The next step in the problem-solving strategy is to solve the problem. Using your pseudocode as your guide, write out your actual code.

Professor Evans suggests focusing on a simple, mechanical solution. The easier and simpler your solution is, the more likely you can program it correctly.

Taking our pseudocode, we could now write this:

Professor Evans adds, remember not to prematurely optimize. That is, you might be tempted to start saying, “Wait, I’m doing this and it’s going to be inefficient code!”

First, just get out your simple, mechanical solution.

What if you can’t solve the entire problem? What if there's a part of it you still don't know how to solve?

Colt Steele gives great advice here: If you can’t solve part of the problem, ignore that hard part that’s tripping you up. Instead, focus on everything else that you can start writing.

Temporarily ignore that difficult part of the problem you don’t quite understand and write out the other parts. Once this is done, come back to the harder part.

This allows you to get at least some of the problem finished. And often, you’ll realize how to tackle that harder part of the problem once you come back to it.

Step 4: Look back over what you've done.

Once your solution is working, take the time to reflect on it and figure out how to make improvements. This might be the time you refactor your solution into a more efficient one.

As you look at your work, here are some questions Colt Steele suggests you ask yourself to figure out how you can improve your solution:

  • Can you derive the result differently? What other approaches are there that are viable?
  • Can you understand it at a glance? Does it make sense?
  • Can you use the result or method for some other problem?
  • Can you improve the performance of your solution?
  • Can you think of other ways to refactor?
  • How have other people solved this problem?

One way we might refactor our problem to make our code more concise: removing our variable and using an implicit return:

With step 4, your problem might never feel finished. Even great developers still write code that they later look at and want to change. These are guiding questions that can help you.

If you still have time in an interview, you can go through this step and make your solution better. If you are coding on your own, take the time to go over these steps.

When I’m practicing coding on my own, I almost always look at the solutions out there that are more elegant or effective than what I’ve come up with.

Wrapping Up

In this post, we’ve gone over the four-step problem-solving strategy for solving coding problems.

Let's review them here:

  • Step 1: understand the problem.
  • Step 2: create a step-by-step plan for how you’ll solve it .
  • Step 3: carry out the plan and write the actual code.
  • Step 4: look back and possibly refactor your solution if it could be better.

Practicing this problem-solving method has immensely helped me in my technical interviews and in my job as a developer. If you don't feel confident when it comes to solving coding problems, just remember that problem-solving is a skill that anyone can get better at with time and practice.

If you enjoyed this post, join my coding club , where we tackle coding challenges together every Sunday and support each other as we learn new technologies.

If you have feedback or questions on this post, feel free to tweet me @madisonkanna ..

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Problem Solving

Solving problems is the core of computer science. Programmers must first understand how a human solves a problem, then understand how to translate this "algorithm" into something a computer can do, and finally how to "write" the specific syntax (required by a computer) to get the job done. It is sometimes the case that a machine will solve a problem in a completely different way than a human.

Computer Programmers are problem solvers. In order to solve a problem on a computer you must:

Know how to represent the information (data) describing the problem.

Determine the steps to transform the information from one representation into another.

Information Representation

A computer, at heart, is really dumb. It can only really know about a few things... numbers, characters, booleans, and lists (called arrays) of these items. (See Data Types). Everything else must be "approximated" by combinations of these data types.

A good programmer will "encode" all the "facts" necessary to represent a problem in variables (See Variables). Further, there are "good ways" and "bad ways" to encode information. Good ways allow the computer to easily "compute" new information.

An algorithm (see Algorithm) is a set of specific steps to solve a problem. Think of it this way: if you were to tell your 3 year old neice to play your favorite song on the piano (assuming the neice has never played a piano), you would have to tell her where the piano was, and how to sit on the bench, and how to open the cover, and which keys to press, and which order to press them in, etc, etc, etc.

The core of what good programmers do is being able to define the steps necessary to accomplish a goal. Unfortunately, a computer, only knows a very restricted and limited set of possible steps. For example a computer can add two numbers. But if you want to find the average of two numbers, this is beyond the basic capabilities of a computer. To find the average, you must:

  • First: Add the two numbers and save this result in a variable
  • Then: Divide this new number the number two, and save this result in a variable.
  • Finally: provide this number to the rest of the program (or print it for the user).

We "compute" all the time. Computing is the act of solving problems (or coming up with a plan to solve problems) in an organized manner. We don't need computers to "compute". We can use our own brain.

Encapsulation and Abstraction and Complexity Hiding

Computer scientists like to use the fancy word "Encapsulation" to show how smart we are. This is just a term for things we do as humans every day. It is combined with another fancy term: "Abstraction".

Abstraction is the idea of "ignoring the details". For example, a forest is really a vastly complex ecosystem containing trees, animals, water paths, etc, etc, etc. But to a computer scientist (and to a normal person), its just "a forest".

For example, if your professor needs a cup of coffee, and asks you the single item: "Get me a cup of coffee", he has used both encapsulation and abstraction. The number of steps required to actually get the coffee are enumerable. Including, getting up, walking down the hall, getting in your car, driving to a coffee stand, paying for the coffee, etc, etc, etc. Further, the idea of what a cup of coffee is, is abstract. Do you bring a mug of coffee, or a Styrofoam cup? Is it caffeinated or not? Is it freshly brewed or from concentrate? Does it come from Africa or America?

All of this information is TOO MUCH and we would quickly be unable to funciton if we had to remember all of these details. Thus we "abstract away" the details and only remember the few important items.

This brings us to the idea of "Complexity Hiding". Complexity hiding is the idea that most of the times details don't matter. In a computer program, as simple an idea as drawing a square on the screen involves hundreds (if not thousands) of (low level) computer instructions. Again, a person couldn't possible create interesting programs if every time they wanted to do something, they had to re-write (correctly) every one of those instructions. By "ecapsulating" what is meant by "draw square" and "reusing" this operation over and over again, we make programming tractable.


The idea behind encapsulation is to store the information necessary to a particular idea in a set of variables associated with a single "object". We then create functions to manipulate this object, regardless of what the actual data is. From that point on, we treat the idea from a "high level" rather than worry about all the parts (data) and actions (functions) necessary to represent the object in a computer.

Brute Force

Brute force is a technique for solving problems that relies on a computers speed (how fast it can repeat steps) to solve a problem. For example, if you wanted to know how many times the number 8 goes into the number 100, you could do the following:

Of course this is a silly way for a computer (or a human) to solve this problem. The real way we would do it is:

When in doubt, you can often use "brute force" to solve a problem, but it often saves time (at least computer time) to think about the problem and solve it in an elegant manner.

  • 1. Micro-Worlds
  • 2. Light-Bot in Java
  • 3. Jeroos of Santong Island
  • 4. Problem Solving and Algorithms
  • 5. Creating Jeroo Methods
  • 6. Conditionally Executing Actions
  • 7. Repeating Actions
  • 8. Handling Touch Events
  • 9. Adding Text to the Screen

Problem Solving and Algorithms

Learn a basic process for developing a solution to a problem. Nothing in this chapter is unique to using a computer to solve a problem. This process can be used to solve a wide variety of problems, including ones that have nothing to do with computers.

Problems, Solutions, and Tools

I have a problem! I need to thank Aunt Kay for the birthday present she sent me. I could send a thank you note through the mail. I could call her on the telephone. I could send her an email message. I could drive to her house and thank her in person. In fact, there are many ways I could thank her, but that's not the point. The point is that I must decide how I want to solve the problem, and use the appropriate tool to implement (carry out) my plan. The postal service, the telephone, the internet, and my automobile are tools that I can use, but none of these actually solves my problem. In a similar way, a computer does not solve problems, it's just a tool that I can use to implement my plan for solving the problem.

Knowing that Aunt Kay appreciates creative and unusual things, I have decided to hire a singing messenger to deliver my thanks. In this context, the messenger is a tool, but one that needs instructions from me. I have to tell the messenger where Aunt Kay lives, what time I would like the message to be delivered, and what lyrics I want sung. A computer program is similar to my instructions to the messenger.

The story of Aunt Kay uses a familiar context to set the stage for a useful point of view concerning computers and computer programs. The following list summarizes the key aspects of this point of view.

A computer is a tool that can be used to implement a plan for solving a problem.

A computer program is a set of instructions for a computer. These instructions describe the steps that the computer must follow to implement a plan.

An algorithm is a plan for solving a problem.

A person must design an algorithm.

A person must translate an algorithm into a computer program.

This point of view sets the stage for a process that we will use to develop solutions to Jeroo problems. The basic process is important because it can be used to solve a wide variety of problems, including ones where the solution will be written in some other programming language.

An Algorithm Development Process

Every problem solution starts with a plan. That plan is called an algorithm.

There are many ways to write an algorithm. Some are very informal, some are quite formal and mathematical in nature, and some are quite graphical. The instructions for connecting a DVD player to a television are an algorithm. A mathematical formula such as πR 2 is a special case of an algorithm. The form is not particularly important as long as it provides a good way to describe and check the logic of the plan.

The development of an algorithm (a plan) is a key step in solving a problem. Once we have an algorithm, we can translate it into a computer program in some programming language. Our algorithm development process consists of five major steps.

Step 1: Obtain a description of the problem.

Step 2: analyze the problem., step 3: develop a high-level algorithm., step 4: refine the algorithm by adding more detail., step 5: review the algorithm..

This step is much more difficult than it appears. In the following discussion, the word client refers to someone who wants to find a solution to a problem, and the word developer refers to someone who finds a way to solve the problem. The developer must create an algorithm that will solve the client's problem.

The client is responsible for creating a description of the problem, but this is often the weakest part of the process. It's quite common for a problem description to suffer from one or more of the following types of defects: (1) the description relies on unstated assumptions, (2) the description is ambiguous, (3) the description is incomplete, or (4) the description has internal contradictions. These defects are seldom due to carelessness by the client. Instead, they are due to the fact that natural languages (English, French, Korean, etc.) are rather imprecise. Part of the developer's responsibility is to identify defects in the description of a problem, and to work with the client to remedy those defects.

The purpose of this step is to determine both the starting and ending points for solving the problem. This process is analogous to a mathematician determining what is given and what must be proven. A good problem description makes it easier to perform this step.

When determining the starting point, we should start by seeking answers to the following questions:

What data are available?

Where is that data?

What formulas pertain to the problem?

What rules exist for working with the data?

What relationships exist among the data values?

When determining the ending point, we need to describe the characteristics of a solution. In other words, how will we know when we're done? Asking the following questions often helps to determine the ending point.

What new facts will we have?

What items will have changed?

What changes will have been made to those items?

What things will no longer exist?

An algorithm is a plan for solving a problem, but plans come in several levels of detail. It's usually better to start with a high-level algorithm that includes the major part of a solution, but leaves the details until later. We can use an everyday example to demonstrate a high-level algorithm.

Problem: I need a send a birthday card to my brother, Mark.

Analysis: I don't have a card. I prefer to buy a card rather than make one myself.

High-level algorithm:

Go to a store that sells greeting cards Select a card Purchase a card Mail the card

This algorithm is satisfactory for daily use, but it lacks details that would have to be added were a computer to carry out the solution. These details include answers to questions such as the following.

"Which store will I visit?"

"How will I get there: walk, drive, ride my bicycle, take the bus?"

"What kind of card does Mark like: humorous, sentimental, risqué?"

These kinds of details are considered in the next step of our process.

A high-level algorithm shows the major steps that need to be followed to solve a problem. Now we need to add details to these steps, but how much detail should we add? Unfortunately, the answer to this question depends on the situation. We have to consider who (or what) is going to implement the algorithm and how much that person (or thing) already knows how to do. If someone is going to purchase Mark's birthday card on my behalf, my instructions have to be adapted to whether or not that person is familiar with the stores in the community and how well the purchaser known my brother's taste in greeting cards.

When our goal is to develop algorithms that will lead to computer programs, we need to consider the capabilities of the computer and provide enough detail so that someone else could use our algorithm to write a computer program that follows the steps in our algorithm. As with the birthday card problem, we need to adjust the level of detail to match the ability of the programmer. When in doubt, or when you are learning, it is better to have too much detail than to have too little.

Most of our examples will move from a high-level to a detailed algorithm in a single step, but this is not always reasonable. For larger, more complex problems, it is common to go through this process several times, developing intermediate level algorithms as we go. Each time, we add more detail to the previous algorithm, stopping when we see no benefit to further refinement. This technique of gradually working from a high-level to a detailed algorithm is often called stepwise refinement .

The final step is to review the algorithm. What are we looking for? First, we need to work through the algorithm step by step to determine whether or not it will solve the original problem. Once we are satisfied that the algorithm does provide a solution to the problem, we start to look for other things. The following questions are typical of ones that should be asked whenever we review an algorithm. Asking these questions and seeking their answers is a good way to develop skills that can be applied to the next problem.

Does this algorithm solve a very specific problem or does it solve a more general problem ? If it solves a very specific problem, should it be generalized?

For example, an algorithm that computes the area of a circle having radius 5.2 meters (formula π*5.2 2 ) solves a very specific problem, but an algorithm that computes the area of any circle (formula π*R 2 ) solves a more general problem.

Can this algorithm be simplified ?

One formula for computing the perimeter of a rectangle is:

length + width + length + width

A simpler formula would be:

2.0 * ( length + width )

Is this solution similar to the solution to another problem? How are they alike? How are they different?

For example, consider the following two formulae:

Rectangle area = length * width Triangle area = 0.5 * base * height

Similarities: Each computes an area. Each multiplies two measurements.

Differences: Different measurements are used. The triangle formula contains 0.5.

Hypothesis: Perhaps every area formula involves multiplying two measurements.

Example 4.1: Pick and Plant

This section contains an extended example that demonstrates the algorithm development process. To complete the algorithm, we need to know that every Jeroo can hop forward, turn left and right, pick a flower from its current location, and plant a flower at its current location.

Problem Statement (Step 1)

A Jeroo starts at (0, 0) facing East with no flowers in its pouch. There is a flower at location (3, 0). Write a program that directs the Jeroo to pick the flower and plant it at location (3, 2). After planting the flower, the Jeroo should hop one space East and stop. There are no other nets, flowers, or Jeroos on the island.


Analysis of the Problem (Step 2)

The flower is exactly three spaces ahead of the jeroo.

The flower is to be planted exactly two spaces South of its current location.

The Jeroo is to finish facing East one space East of the planted flower.

There are no nets to worry about.

High-level Algorithm (Step 3)

Let's name the Jeroo Bobby. Bobby should do the following:

Get the flower Put the flower Hop East

Detailed Algorithm (Step 4)

Get the flower Hop 3 times Pick the flower Put the flower Turn right Hop 2 times Plant a flower Hop East Turn left Hop once

Review the Algorithm (Step 5)

The high-level algorithm partitioned the problem into three rather easy subproblems. This seems like a good technique.

This algorithm solves a very specific problem because the Jeroo and the flower are in very specific locations.

This algorithm is actually a solution to a slightly more general problem in which the Jeroo starts anywhere, and the flower is 3 spaces directly ahead of the Jeroo.

Java Code for "Pick and Plant"

A good programmer doesn't write a program all at once. Instead, the programmer will write and test the program in a series of builds. Each build adds to the previous one. The high-level algorithm will guide us in this process.


To see this solution in action, create a new Greenfoot4Sofia scenario and use the Edit Palettes Jeroo menu command to make the Jeroo classes visible. Right-click on the Island class and create a new subclass with the name of your choice. This subclass will hold your new code.

The recommended first build contains three things:

The main method (here myProgram() in your island subclass).

Declaration and instantiation of every Jeroo that will be used.

The high-level algorithm in the form of comments.

The instantiation at the beginning of myProgram() places bobby at (0, 0), facing East, with no flowers.

Once the first build is working correctly, we can proceed to the others. In this case, each build will correspond to one step in the high-level algorithm. It may seem like a lot of work to use four builds for such a simple program, but doing so helps establish habits that will become invaluable as the programs become more complex.


This build adds the logic to "get the flower", which in the detailed algorithm (step 4 above) consists of hopping 3 times and then picking the flower. The new code is indicated by comments that wouldn't appear in the original (they are just here to call attention to the additions). The blank lines help show the organization of the logic.

By taking a moment to run the work so far, you can confirm whether or not this step in the planned algorithm works as expected.


This build adds the logic to "put the flower". New code is indicated by the comments that are provided here to mark the additions.


Example 4.2: replace net with flower.

This section contains a second example that demonstrates the algorithm development process.

There are two Jeroos. One Jeroo starts at (0, 0) facing North with one flower in its pouch. The second starts at (0, 2) facing East with one flower in its pouch. There is a net at location (3, 2). Write a program that directs the first Jeroo to give its flower to the second one. After receiving the flower, the second Jeroo must disable the net, and plant a flower in its place. After planting the flower, the Jeroo must turn and face South. There are no other nets, flowers, or Jeroos on the island.

Jeroo_2 is exactly two spaces behind Jeroo_1.

The only net is exactly three spaces ahead of Jeroo_2.

Each Jeroo has exactly one flower.

Jeroo_2 will have two flowers after receiving one from Jeroo_1. One flower must be used to disable the net. The other flower must be planted at the location of the net, i.e. (3, 2).

Jeroo_1 will finish at (0, 1) facing South.

Jeroo_2 is to finish at (3, 2) facing South.

Each Jeroo will finish with 0 flowers in its pouch. One flower was used to disable the net, and the other was planted.

Let's name the first Jeroo Ann and the second one Andy.

Ann should do the following: Find Andy (but don't collide with him) Give a flower to Andy (he will be straight ahead) After receiving the flower, Andy should do the following: Find the net (but don't hop onto it) Disable the net Plant a flower at the location of the net Face South
Ann should do the following: Find Andy Turn around (either left or right twice) Hop (to location (0, 1)) Give a flower to Andy Give ahead Now Andy should do the following: Find the net Hop twice (to location (2, 2)) Disable the net Toss Plant a flower at the location of the net Hop (to location (3, 2)) Plant a flower Face South Turn right

The high-level algorithm helps manage the details.

This algorithm solves a very specific problem, but the specific locations are not important. The only thing that is important is the starting location of the Jeroos relative to one another and the location of the net relative to the second Jeroo's location and direction.

Java Code for "Replace Net with Flower"

As before, the code should be written incrementally as a series of builds. Four builds will be suitable for this problem. As usual, the first build will contain the main method, the declaration and instantiation of the Jeroo objects, and the high-level algorithm in the form of comments. The second build will have Ann give her flower to Andy. The third build will have Andy locate and disable the net. In the final build, Andy will place the flower and turn East.

This build creates the main method, instantiates the Jeroos, and outlines the high-level algorithm. In this example, the main method would be myProgram() contained within a subclass of Island .

This build adds the logic for Ann to locate Andy and give him a flower.

This build adds the logic for Andy to locate and disable the net.

This build adds the logic for Andy to place a flower at (3, 2) and turn South.

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Think like a computer: the logic of programming

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Last updated on 6/15/21

Discover how computers solve problems

Have you ever wondered how a computer solves a problem?  As humans, we learn problem-solving by watching others and through trial and error.  What makes a smart car smart? What is artificial intelligence and what makes it artificial?

Computers can’t actually think, but they can perform billions of logical operations per second. These logical operations are written by us and provide the computer with the instructions needed to perform the problem-solving.  This means you need to think like a computer and translate what you need it to do into program instructions it understands.

Solving a problem like a computer

Computers are basically toddlers. You have to explain everything to them. Take the simple task of watering flowers.  What tools do you need? What steps do you need?

Pick up a watering can by the handle.

Go to the faucet.

Put the opening of the watering can under the faucet.

Turn on the faucet.

Fill the watering can with water.

Turn off the faucet.

Go to your garden.

Tilt the spout of the watering can downwards.

Pour the water on your flowers.

This looks deceptively simple.  However, if you forget to tell your toddler...er...computer to pick up the watering can by the handle, it may try to pick it up by the spout.  If you don’t tell it to turn the faucet on, it will just sit there, staring at it. And if you don’t tell it to turn it off, it might just let the water run. 🚰 You can see where this is going.

Toddler watering flowers

Computers can’t make assumptions or guess what you want .  If you tell a computer to dust the furniture, it will actually put dust on your furniture, instead of removing it!  It can’t read context clues, so it will take all of your instructions literally. This is why it’s important to think through all the logical gaps in your instructions!

Try it out for yourself!

Write out the steps to making a cup of coffee or tea.  Write down everything that needs to be done. If you use milk or cream, don’t forget to say how to find it!  Once you’re done, test your instructions out on a friend. Tell them to follow the directions exactly.  Have you missed anything?

Computers can solve problems by performing billions of operations per second .

A programmer’s job is to find solutions . They do this by breaking down problems into easy-to-follow steps for a computer.

Programming languages allow people to communicate with computers.

Computers are literal and do exactly what you tell them to.

Example of certificate of achievement

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  • Understanding the Problem

Problem Solving

Today, we use computers in every field for various purposes. But, we know that they cannot solve the problems all by themselves. Furthermore, we have to give step by step instructions to the computer for solving the problem. We can define problem-solving as a process of understanding the problem, designing an algorithm for it, and finally implementing the solution to it.

Therefore, we can say that a successful problem-solving process depends on the following factors:

  • understanding the problem and defining it precisely.
  • designing a proper algorithm (solution) for it.
  • implementing the algorithm successfully.

When the problems are easy we can easily search out a solution. Whereas, complex problems require step by step process to solve. Hence, this means that we have to apply problem-solving techniques to solve the problem. Furthermore, this starts with finding a precise definition of the problem and ends with a successful solution. Here, we will study understanding the problem in detail.

Browse more Topics Under Problem Solving Methodologies

  • Solution for the Problem
  • Breaking Down Solution into Simple Steps
  • Identification of Arithmetic and Logical Operations
  • Control Structure
  • Introduction to Algorithms/Flowcharts

It is very obvious that before finding the solution we should understand the problem well. Moreover, if we fail to understand the problem we may end up with a useless solution for it. Hence, a wrong solution will not solve our purpose of problem-solving. Therefore, we need to read the problem carefully and decide the different functions which the solution will contain.

Moreover, we need to understand that what is the required output and how we can generate it. Besides, for proper output, we surely need an input. The input can be single or multiple as per the problem. Hence, it is quite important to maintain the necessary relationship between the input and the output.

Furthermore, we need to keep in mind that there should be all the number of inputs required to produce the output. At the same time, the programmer should make sure that the number of inputs should be limited. Moreover, any irrelevant input will result in consuming more space and time. Hence, unnecessary inputs should be avoided. Therefore, we can say that spotting the minimum number of input for the correct output is an important point in understanding the problem.

Important points in Understanding the Problem

Some of the important points that we should keep in mind while understanding the problem are as follows:

  • Read the problem very carefully.
  • Identify the functions that the solution (algorithm) should have.
  • Identify the required output.
  • Find a way to produce the required output.
  • Draw a proper relationship between the input and output.
  • Take all the necessary number of inputs.
  • Avoid unnecessary inputs.
  • Identify the correct number of the required input.

Further steps in problem-solving

After understanding the problem, the further steps are as follows:

Designing an algorithm

After understanding the relationship between input and output and the functionalities required we have to design an algorithm. Furthermore, the algorithm should contain all the necessary functions to solve the problem. Moreover, it should produce a proper output for every input.

Implementing the algorithm

After designing the algorithm we should implement and design a program to solve the problem. We can develop the program using any programming language.

After developing the program we should run and test if it produces the correct output.

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Problem Solving Methodologies

  • Introduction to Algorithms and Flowcharts
  • Control Structures
  • Identification of Arithmetic and Logical Operations Required for Solution

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  • Problem Solving Techniques

Unlock the secrets of efficient coding, develop an in-depth understanding of different strategies, and learn how decision-making plays a significant role in using problem-solving techniques in Computer Science . This enlightening journey begins with an exploration into the definition of problem-solving techniques and their paramount importance in Computer Science. You further discover the basic problem-solving methods, their practical applications, and how these foundational skills apply directly to coding. 

Problem Solving Techniques

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Going deeper, you explore seven pivotal problem-solving techniques, understanding their concepts and their indispensable uses in Computer Science . Finally, learn the nuances involved in contrasting problem-solving and decision-making techniques, the subtleties that set them apart, and ways in which they can be combined for the most effective results, in terms of both efficiency and creativity.

Understanding Problem-Solving Techniques

Problem-solving techniques in computer science are the protocols, procedures, or methods employed to identify the root cause of a problem and construct an efficient solution.

Definition of problem-solving techniques in Computer Science

Problem-solving techniques in computer science refer to the methods used to find solutions to complex issues using algorithmic or heuristic approaches. These techniques can be systematic, analytical, or intuitive, encompassing traditional programming, machine learning, or artificial intelligence methods.

These techniques are used in various domains within computer science, including data analysis, software development, network troubleshooting, and cybersecurity. For example, in software development, problem-solving may involve debugging an application. Here, the issue could be a broken functionality within the application, and the solution might be modifying a specific segment of code.

At a software development company, the team notices that their mobile application crashes whenever a user tries to upload a profile picture. By employing problem-solving techniques such as testing , the team identifies that the crash occurs due to a buffer overflow when processing large images. Once identified, they solve this problem by modifying the code to handle large image sizes better.

Importance of problem-solving techniques in Computer Science

Problem-solving techniques are the cornerstone of computer science. From designing efficient algorithms for a given task to optimising or guaranteeing certain performance metrics, these techniques are used daily. Here's why they're important:

  • Mitigating runtime errors and system crashes: By identifying and rectifying coding mistakes effectively.
  • Optimizing software: Problem-solving techniques can help improve the efficiency of software, leading to enhanced user experience and reduced resource consumption.
  • Data analysis: They help in organizing, evaluating, and interpreting complex datasets to derive meaningful insights.
  • Cybersecurity: By identifying potential vulnerabilities and patching them before they can be exploited, thereby safeguarding digital assets.

In the domain of machine learning, problem-solving techniques are even more paramount. Here, problems can include determining the best machine learning model for a specific task, tuning the hyperparameters of a model, or dealing with issues like data imbalance or overfitting. These techniques can guide computer scientists in their quest to develop robust, accurate machine-learning models that can make sense of vast, complex data.

Given the rapidly evolving nature of computer science, mastering various problem-solving techniques is essential to stay ahead in this field. It helps you adapt to new advancements and tackle a wide range of challenges that come your way.

Basic Problem-Solving Techniques

Before diving into advanced, specialized techniques for solving problems, it is essential to become proficient in the fundamentals, which transcend specific problem domains and provide a solid foundation for exploring more complex areas within computer science.

Introduction to basic problem-solving techniques

There are several standard problem-solving techniques that you can employ irrespective of the field of study in computer science. The first step, however, is always understanding the problem, then you can choose the right strategy to solve it. Here are some of the basic problem-solving methods that are particularly useful:

Divide and Conquer: This technique involves breaking a larger problem into smaller, more manageable parts, solving each of them individually, and finally combining their solutions to get the overall answer.

Consider an example in the context of sorting a list of numbers. Using a divide-and-conquer algorithm like Merge Sort , the list is continually split in half, until you reach lists of size one. These lists are inherently sorted, and then you recursively merge these sorted lists, resulting in a fully sorted list.

Algorithm Design: This technique involves formalizing a series of organized steps into an algorithm to solve a specific problem. Common approaches include greedy algorithms, dynamic programming, and brute force .

Heuristics: These are rules of thumb or educated guesses that can help you find an acceptable, if not the perfect, solution when the problem is too complex for a direct mathematical approach, or when computational resources are limited.

Heuristics are not guaranteed to yield the optimal solution but are often good enough for practical purposes and can dramatically reduce the time and resources needed to find a solution.

Recursive Thinking: Recursion is predicated on solving a problem by breaking it down into smaller instances of the same problem. The idea is that, eventually, you will get to a problem that is small enough to solve directly.

Even though these techniques might sound simple, they form a cornerstone and are often cloaked within complex problem-solving techniques used in higher-level computer science.

Practical application of basic problem-solving techniques

The practical application of basic problem-solving techniques in computer science is broad and varied, depending on the specific domain. However, some applications cut across most sectors of computer science:

Problem-solving techniquePractical application
Divide and ConquerUsed in ( , ), searching algorithms ( ), FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) algorithm for converting a signal into its constituent frequencies
Algorithm DesignUsed in routing protocols for networks (Dijkstra's algorithm), algorithms for computer graphics and rendering, cryptography algorithms for secure communications
HeuristicsUsed in AI for game playing (Chess, Go), in natural language processing for language translation, and in navigation systems for route planning
Recursive ThinkingUsed in parsing syntax trees in compilers, algorithms for solving puzzles (Sudoku Solver), and many algorithms in (Tree/Graph traversals)

Each technique has its strengths and weaknesses, and the key is knowing which technique (or combination of techniques) to use for a particular problem. Remember, the goal is not just to find any solution, but to find the most efficient one possible.

Other fields, too, benefit from these problem-solving techniques. For example, bioinformatics implements algorithm design to match genetic sequences, while digital forensics employs divide-and-conquer techniques to sift through large amounts of data during an investigation. Moreover, heuristics play a significant role in the burgeoning field of AI, proving that these problem-solving techniques not only provide a solid foundation for computer science but also have real-world applications.

Coding Problem-Solving Techniques

Delving into the more specific realm of coding within computer science, the arsenal of problem-solving techniques takes on facets best suited for resolving issues related to programming and development.

Importance of coding problem-solving techniques in Computer Science

Coding problem-solving techniques are the tools that software developers use to create, optimise, and manage software applications effectively. These techniques play an instrumental role in many aspects:

  • Enhancing code efficiency: Efficient code is faster to execute, consumes less memory, and results in responsive, user-friendly applications. For instance, choosing an optimal sorting algorithm based on the size of the list can markedly improve runtime.
  • Mitigating errors: Through structured debugging and systematic thinking, developers can track and rectify logic errors, syntax errors , or runtime exceptions, leading to robust, error-free code.
  • Facilitating code readability and maintenance: Good coding practices, such as following a consistent naming scheme and using descriptive comments, make code easier to understand, troubleshoot, and maintain – essential when working in a team.
  • Implementing complex functionalities: Many modern applications require intricate algorithms, use elaborate data structures , and handle large volumes of data. Mastery of coding problem-solving techniques enables developers to tackle these challenges effectively.

Examples of coding problem-solving techniques

There's a myriad of coding problem-solving techniques at a developer's disposal. These methods typically supplement basic problem-solving techniques with practices tailored for the coding environment. Let's delve into a few:

Debugging: Debugging is the process of identifying and rectifying coding errors. It often involves using built-in tools or software debuggers to step through the code line-by-line, track variable values, and uncover where things go awry. A systematic debugging approach is essential for problem-solving in coding.

Suppose you are developing a JavaScript web application, and some functionality isn't working as expected. By using the browser's debugging tools, you can step through your JavaScript code, watch the values assigned to variables, and identify the line creating the issue.

Code Refactoring: Refactoring implies rearranging and improving the structure of existing code without changing its functionality. Refactoring techniques, such as extracting repeated code into functions or simplifying conditional expressions, are integral problem-solving tools aimed at improving code readability and efficiency.

Using Data Structures & Algorithms: Effective use of data structures ( Arrays , LinkedList, Stack, Queue, Tree, Hashtable, etc.) and algorithms (Sorting, Searching, etc.) is fundamental in coding problem-solving. The correct choice and application of such tools can have a dramatic impact on a program’s performance.

Version Control: While writing code, you often need to try out different solutions or collaborate with other team members. Using version control systems , like Git, helps manage changes, track history, and merge code from different branches. This aids in solving and managing complex coding problems.

Apart from these fundamental techniques, advanced paradigms, such as Test-Driven Development (TDD), Behaviour Driven Development (BDD), etc., also exist. In TDD, the developer writes tests for a function before writing the actual function. In BDD, the behaviour of an application from the end user's perspective is the guiding force behind development. These paradigms incorporate problem-solving in their methodologies and guide the development process to create effective, robust applications.

Indeed, coding problem-solving techniques enrich a developer's toolkit and provide avenues to tackle the myriad of challenges that arise in programming. Whether it's minimising bugs, improving code efficiency, or implementing complex functionalities, these techniques are indispensable in daily coding endeavours.

In-depth study of 7 Problem-Solving Techniques

Problem-solving takes centre stage in the realm of computer science, where challenges need methodical approaches for efficient resolution. Let's delve into an in-depth exploration of seven such techniques, with each offering a unique perspective on how to tackle and solve issues effectively.

Conceptual understanding of the 7 problem-solving techniques

Within the realm of computer science, efficient problem-solving techniques can be the key to unlocking streamlined workflows, effective data handling, and improved coding management. These problem-solving methods include:

  • Divide and Conquer: This technique splits larger problems into smaller, more manageable sub-problems, solves the sub-problems individually and combines the solutions to get a complete resolution. This technique is pertinent to a wide range of algorithms in computer science , including sorting and searching algorithms.
  • Greedy Algorithms: Greedy algorithms solve problems by making the best choice at each step, with the hope that these local optimal solutions will lead to a globally optimal solution. They are often used in scenarios where the optimal solution has a 'greedy property', such as in the famous 'travelling salesman' problem.
  • Backtracking : This technique incrementally builds candidates for the solutions and abandons a candidate as soon as it determines that this candidate cannot possibly be extended to a valid solution.
  • Dynamic Programming: This method solves complex problems by breaking them down into simpler sub-problems, but unlike divide and conquer, these sub-problems are not solved independently. Instead, the results of sub-problems are stored and utilised to build up solutions to larger problems.
  • Brute Force : This straightforward approach tries every possible solution until it finds the best one. The simplicity of this method often makes it a practical and easy-to-implement fallback plan, although it may not be the most efficient.
  • Randomised Algorithms: For certain problems, deterministic algorithms may be too slow or complex, and the solution space too large to navigate exhaustively. In such cases, randomised algorithms offer an option where random choices drive the solution process. These algorithms have proven extremely efficient in problems like QuickSort and the Monte Carlo method.
  • Heuristic Methods: Heuristics are problem-solving approaches that are not always guaranteed to provide the perfect solution but will produce a good solution in a reasonable time. Various AI and machine learning techniques, such as genetic algorithms or neural networks, heavily use heuristic methods.

A Greedy Algorithm is one where, at each step, the choice that looks the best at that moment is selected with the belief that this choice will lead to an optimal global solution.

Understanding the foundations of these techniques provides a comprehensive toolset to approach a wide array of problems in computer science. It's important to remember that a technique's effectiveness largely depends on the nature of the problem.

Uses of the 7 problem-solving techniques in Computer Science

Each problem-solving method can be coupled with different facets within computer science. For example, encryption techniques, compression algorithms, network routing strategies, and database searches all rely on precise problem-solving methodologies. Here are just a few of the potential uses for each method:

Problem-solving techniqueApplication in Computer Science
Divide and ConquerUsed in algorithms like quicksort and mergesort, matrix multiplication, and Fast Fourier Transform.
Greedy AlgorithmsImplemented in algorithms for task scheduling, Prim's and Kruskal's for minimum spanning trees, and Dijkstra's for shortest paths.
BacktrackingApplied in solving Sudoku puzzles, the eight queens problem, or in the creation of mazes.
Dynamic ProgrammingUsed in algorithms for sequence alignment in bioinformatics, efficient routing in telecommunications and graph theory, or resource allocation in operations research.
Brute ForceFound in simple , gaming solutions such as tic-tac-toe, or password cracking techniques.
Randomised AlgorithmsUsed in cryptography for key generation and primality , and in algorithm design like the randomised version of quicksort - 'Randomized-Quicksort'
Heuristic MethodsEmployed in machine learning and artificial intelligence, like A* pathfinding for game development or genetic algorithms for feature selection in machine learning, game AI and automation, decision making in robotics.

The flexibility and variety of these problem-solving techniques enable a far-reaching applicability across the vast landscape of computer science. By understanding and mastering these techniques, you can tackle a wide array of complex problems more efficiently.

Brainstorming Problem-Solving Techniques

In the context of problem-solving techniques, brainstorming is an invaluable tool. Brainstorming offers a creative, open-ended approach well-suited for troubleshooting challenges, stimulating new ideas, and tackling issues from fresh angles.

Role of brainstorming in problem-solving techniques

Brainstorming's emphasis on exploratory thinking and collaborative problem-solving makes it an excellent tool in computer science. This interactive technique encourages you to think outside the box, ushering a wealth of ideas and potential problem-solving approaches. Here's why brainstorming plays a pivotal role in problem-solving techniques:

  • Encourages Creative Thinking: Brainstorming breaks down the barriers of conventional thought, promoting imaginative solutions that may not be immediately evident. This out-of-the-box thinking can generate unique problem-solving methods for complex computer science problems.
  • Fosters Collaboration: Brainstorming is fundamentally a collective effort. By combining the expertise and viewpoints of multiple individuals, it can foster innovative problem-solving approaches that would not surface in isolated thinking.
  • Aids in Problem Understanding: In the process of brainstorming, not only are solutions discussed, but the problem itself is dissected from different angles. This aids in gaining a deeper understanding of the problem, essential to uncover the most effective solutions.

Consider a team of developers brainstorming to develop a feature for a software application. One developer might suggest a direct approach that, although simple, may not be the most efficient. Another team member could propose a more complex, but efficient, algorithm for the feature. A third might contribute an innovative approach that balances both performance and simplicity.

Through this collective brainstorming, the team converges on the most well-rounded approach, emphasising the critical role that brainstorming plays in problem-solving methodologies.

Applying brainstorming in problem-solving techniques

Brainstorming is not just about generating as many ideas as possible; it's also about creating an organized framework for synthesizing and evaluating those ideas.

For effective brainstorming in problem-solving and decision-making techniques, you can follow the steps below:

  • Define the Problem: Clearly understand and define the problem that needs solving. The more accurately the problem is described, the more targeted the brainstorming will be.
  • Set Guidelines: Establish rules for the brainstorming session to keep it focused and productive. These might include encouraging free thinking, postponing judgment, welcoming wild ideas, building on other ideas, and setting a time limit.
  • Idea Generation: Begin brainstorming, inviting everyone involved to share their ideas. The key is to promote creativity and diversity of thought. No idea is too outlandish; often, the most unconventional suggestions lead to the most innovative solutions.
  • Categorise and Consolidate: Once all the ideas are documented, start to group related ideas together and consolidate overlapping ideas.
  • Analyse and Evaluate: It's time to analyse each idea based on its feasibility, potential impact, and resource requirement. Ideas that might not appear effective initially can be valuable when combined with other ideas.
  • Select and Implement: After thorough analysis and discussion, decide on the best solution(s) to implement, based on the resources and time available, instantly making the brainstorming session instrumental in decision making as well.

Remember: Brainstorming is not just a one-time activity. It can and should be done iteratively. Often, implementation of an idea will bring forward new challenges, requiring another round of brainstorming. The strength of brainstorming lies in its fluid nature, allowing it to adapt and iterate until the problem at hand is fully resolved.

All in all, brainstorming is a powerful problem-solving and decision-making technique in computer science. By cultivating creativity, encouraging collaboration, and fostering a deeper understanding of problems, it holds the potential to tackle complex issues effectively.

Problem Solving and Decision Making Techniques

In computer science, problem-solving and decision-making form the core techniques widely employed in managing software development, debugging, data analysis, network operations, and more. Incorporating these methodologies in a concerted, structured manner can significantly enhance the outcomes in various fields of technology.

Difference between problem-solving and decision-making techniques

While it might appear that problem-solving and decision-making are interchangeable terms, they signify distinct aspects of addressing challenges in computer science.

  • Problem-solving: Within a computer science context, problem-solving involves identifying an issue within a system, application, or theory and resolving it effectively. This process often includes defining the problem, identifying root causes, generating alternative solutions, selecting a solution, and implementing it. Problem-solving often utilises techniques like debugging, algorithmic design, divide and conquer, dynamic programming, recursive thinking, heuristic methods, and more.
  • Decision-making: Decision-making, on the other hand, is a process of choosing between different alternatives. It often follows problem-solving whereby, after identifying potential solutions to a problem, the best option needs to be chosen. Decision-making techniques might include tools like decision matrices, cost-benefit analyses, or simple pros-and-cons lists. In computer science, decision-making can involve choosing the right data structure, deciding which algorithm to use, or selecting a coding methodology.

For instance, problem-solving might involve identifying a bottleneck in a software's performance and brainstorming different ways to enhance the efficiency. However, decision-making comes into play when you need to choose one of the generated solutions based on various factors like resource availability, time constraints, the impact of the solution, etc. Thus, while both techniques cater to overcoming challenges, problem-solving is more focused on creating solutions, whereas decision-making prioritises choosing the most optimal one from these solutions.

Combining problem-solving and decision-making for effective results

Effective results in computer science often stem from an amalgamation of both problem-solving and decision-making techniques. Combining these approaches ensures a comprehensive solution to challenges, complete with a thorough understanding of the problem, an array of possible solutions, and a well-thought-out decision on implementing the best solution.

Consider a situation where a computer system is repeatedly encountering a fatal error. Here's how problem-solving and decision-making techniques can be combined for effective results:

  • Identification: Firstly, identify the issue affecting the system. This could be established through system monitoring tools or error logs. Once the problem is identified, it sets the base for problem-solving.
  • Problem-Solving: Now, brainstorm for possible solutions to rectify the error. This could involve debugging the system or reviewing the code to find potential bugs. Perhaps the issue might be a memory leak that needs addressing or a race condition in multi-threaded operations. These solutions emanate from problem-solving techniques.
  • Decision-Making: Once a list of possible solutions is generated, use decision-making techniques to select the best course of action. You could create a pros-and-cons list for each solution or use a more formal decision matrix to evaluate effectiveness, resources required, impact on system performance, etc. Finally, implement the solution.
  • Review: After implementation, monitor the system to ensure the solution is working as intended. If the problem persists, the process returns to the problem-solving stage to revisit the issue and generate new solutions.

It's important to keep in mind that real-word scenarios seldom follow a tidy linear sequence. More commonly, problem-solving and decision-making are iterative, cyclical processes that overlap and interrelate. It's a dynamic environment where a bottleneck can stimulate new decision-making criteria, or an unforeseen decisional deadlock might call for fresh problem-solving ideas.

Combining problem-solving with decision-making offers a structured, strategic approach to tackle challenges commonly found in computer science. This conjunction of techniques provides a robust, versatile methodology to drive effective results across the diverse landscape of technology.

Problem Solving Techniques - Key takeaways

  • Problem-solving techniques in Computer Science are techniques which typically use algorithmic or heuristic approaches to resolve complex issues.
  • Problem-solving techniques can be systematic, analytical, or intuitive, and involve traditional programming, machine learning, or artificial intelligence methods. Applied in domains such as data analysis, software development, network troubleshooting, and cybersecurity.
  • Basic problem-solving techniques comprises of methods like divide and conquer, algorithm design, heuristics, and recursive thinking, all aimed at understanding and tackling problems.
  • Practical applications of basic problem-solving techniques include applications spanning across various sectors of computer science, including sorting and searching algorithms, routing protocols for networks, AI game playing, and parsing syntax trees in compilers.
  • Examples of coding problem-solving techniques include Debugging which is essential in identifying and rectifying coding errors, Code Refactoring to improve the structure of existing code without changing its functionality, Using Data Structures & Algorithms to have a dramatic impact on a program’s performance, and Version Control System like Git for managing changes, tracking history and merging code from different branches.

Flashcards in Problem Solving Techniques 404

What are problem-solving techniques in computer science?

Problem-solving techniques in computer science refer to the methods used to find solutions to complex issues using algorithmic or heuristic approaches, which can be systematic, analytical, or intuitive. They encompass traditional programming, machine learning, or artificial intelligence methods.

Why are problem-solving techniques important in computer science?

Problem-solving techniques in computer science are important for mitigating runtime errors and system crashes, optimizing software, organizing, evaluating, and interpreting complex datasets, and identifying potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities and patching them.

What is the 'Divide and Conquer' problem-solving technique in computer science?

The 'Divide and Conquer' technique involves breaking a larger problem into smaller, more manageable parts, solving each individually, and combining their solutions to get the overall answer. This is often used in sorting algorithms like Merge Sort.

What is the purpose of the 'Heuristics' problem-solving technique?

'Heuristics' are educated guesses that can help find an acceptable solution when the problem is too complex for a direct mathematical approach, or when computational resources are limited. They are often used in AI and language translations.

What are some of the important functions of coding problem-solving techniques in computer science?

Coding problem-solving techniques aid in enhancing code efficiency, mitigating errors, facilitating code readability and maintenance, and implementing complex functionalities.

What are some examples of coding problem-solving techniques?

Examples include debugging, code refactoring, using appropriate data structures and algorithms, and implementing version control.

Problem Solving Techniques

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Frequently Asked Questions about Problem Solving Techniques

What are some problem-solving techniques?

Some common problem solving techniques include brainstorming, the five whys technique, root cause analysis, lateral thinking, striving for simplicity, the 6 thinking hats and using flow charts or diagrams. Additionally, techniques such as SWOT analysis, Trial and Error, and Decision Trees can also be effective tools in problem-solving. Each technique is employed based on the nature and context of the problem to be solved. It's crucial to understand the problem fully before choosing a technique to apply.

What are the four problem-solving techniques?

The four problem solving techniques are: 

1) Defining the problem clearly to understand its nature and scope

2) Generating a range of potential solutions through brainstorming or creative thinking 

3) Evaluating and selecting the most feasible solutions by analysing their pros and cons

4) Implementing the chosen solution and monitoring its effectiveness.

How to apply problem-solving techniques?

To apply problem solving techniques, you first need to clearly identify and define the problem. Next, gather as much information as you can related to the problem. Once you have all the details, generate a range of potential solutions and evaluate each for its merits and downsides. Finally, implement the best solution and review its effectiveness, making adjustments as necessary.

What are the different problem solving techniques?

Different problem solving techniques include brainstorming, lateral thinking, root cause analysis, the five whys technique, mind mapping, SWOT analysis, "divide and conquer" technique and use of algorithms or heuristics. Additionally, the use of decision trees, fishbone diagrams, and PEST & STEEPLE analysis are also widely used in strategic problem solving. All these techniques help in breaking down complex problems into manageable parts and finding effective solutions. The choice of technique may vary depending on the nature and complexity of the problem.

How to choose problem-solving techniques?

Choosing problem-solving techniques involves understanding the nature and scope of the problem, identifying all potential methods for resolution, and then carefully evaluating each one in terms of its appropriateness, feasibility, and probable effectiveness, selecting the most promising one. Take into consideration multidisciplinary insights, and factor in resources available, time constraints, and potential risks. It can also be useful to bring in outside perspectives or utilise brainstorming techniques. The chosen method should ideally be both effective and efficient in resolving the problem at hand.

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Problem Solving Techniques

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Problem Solving Techniques

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what is problem solving in computer

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  • 1.1 Objectives
  • 1.2 Getting Started
  • 1.3 What Is Computer Science?
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  • 1.6 Why Study Algorithms?
  • 1.7 Review of Basic Python
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1.3. What Is Computer Science? ¶

Computer science is difficult to define. This is probably due to the unfortunate use of the word “computer” in the name. As you are perhaps aware, computer science is not simply the study of computers. Although computers play an important supporting role as a tool in the discipline, they are just that–tools.

Computer science is the study of problems, problem-solving, and the solutions that come out of the problem-solving process. Given a problem, a computer scientist’s goal is to develop an algorithm , a step-by-step list of instructions for solving any instance of the problem that might arise. Algorithms are finite processes that if followed will solve the problem. Algorithms are solutions.

Computer science can be thought of as the study of algorithms. However, we must be careful to include the fact that some problems may not have a solution. Although proving this statement is beyond the scope of this text, the fact that some problems cannot be solved is important for those who study computer science. We can fully define computer science, then, by including both types of problems and stating that computer science is the study of solutions to problems as well as the study of problems with no solutions.

It is also very common to include the word computable when describing problems and solutions. We say that a problem is computable if an algorithm exists for solving it. An alternative definition for computer science, then, is to say that computer science is the study of problems that are and that are not computable, the study of the existence and the nonexistence of algorithms. In any case, you will note that the word “computer” did not come up at all. Solutions are considered independent from the machine.

Computer science, as it pertains to the problem-solving process itself, is also the study of abstraction . Abstraction allows us to view the problem and solution in such a way as to separate the so-called logical and physical perspectives. The basic idea is familiar to us in a common example.

Consider the automobile that you may have driven to school or work today. As a driver, a user of the car, you have certain interactions that take place in order to utilize the car for its intended purpose. You get in, insert the key, start the car, shift, brake, accelerate, and steer in order to drive. From an abstraction point of view, we can say that you are seeing the logical perspective of the automobile. You are using the functions provided by the car designers for the purpose of transporting you from one location to another. These functions are sometimes also referred to as the interface .

On the other hand, the mechanic who must repair your automobile takes a very different point of view. She not only knows how to drive but must know all of the details necessary to carry out all the functions that we take for granted. She needs to understand how the engine works, how the transmission shifts gears, how temperature is controlled, and so on. This is known as the physical perspective, the details that take place “under the hood.”

The same thing happens when we use computers. Most people use computers to write documents, send and receive email, surf the web, play music, store images, and play games without any knowledge of the details that take place to allow those types of applications to work. They view computers from a logical or user perspective. Computer scientists, programmers, technology support staff, and system administrators take a very different view of the computer. They must know the details of how operating systems work, how network protocols are configured, and how to code various scripts that control function. They must be able to control the low-level details that a user simply assumes.

The common point for both of these examples is that the user of the abstraction, sometimes also called the client, does not need to know the details as long as the user is aware of the way the interface works. This interface is the way we as users communicate with the underlying complexities of the implementation. As another example of abstraction, consider the Python math module. Once we import the module, we can perform computations such as

This is an example of procedural abstraction . We do not necessarily know how the square root is being calculated, but we know what the function is called and how to use it. If we perform the import correctly, we can assume that the function will provide us with the correct results. We know that someone implemented a solution to the square root problem but we only need to know how to use it. This is sometimes referred to as a “black box” view of a process. We simply describe the interface: the name of the function, what is needed (the parameters), and what will be returned. The details are hidden inside (see Figure 1 ).


Figure 1: Procedural Abstraction ¶

40 problem-solving techniques and processes

Problem solving workshop

All teams and organizations encounter challenges. Approaching those challenges without a structured problem solving process can end up making things worse.

Proven problem solving techniques such as those outlined below can guide your group through a process of identifying problems and challenges , ideating on possible solutions , and then evaluating and implementing the most suitable .

In this post, you'll find problem-solving tools you can use to develop effective solutions. You'll also find some tips for facilitating the problem solving process and solving complex problems.

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What is problem solving?

Problem solving is a process of finding and implementing a solution to a challenge or obstacle. In most contexts, this means going through a problem solving process that begins with identifying the issue, exploring its root causes, ideating and refining possible solutions before implementing and measuring the impact of that solution.

For simple or small problems, it can be tempting to skip straight to implementing what you believe is the right solution. The danger with this approach is that without exploring the true causes of the issue, it might just occur again or your chosen solution may cause other issues.

Particularly in the world of work, good problem solving means using data to back up each step of the process, bringing in new perspectives and effectively measuring the impact of your solution.

Effective problem solving can help ensure that your team or organization is well positioned to overcome challenges, be resilient to change and create innovation. In my experience, problem solving is a combination of skillset, mindset and process, and it’s especially vital for leaders to cultivate this skill.

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What is the seven step problem solving process?

A problem solving process is a step-by-step framework from going from discovering a problem all the way through to implementing a solution.

With practice, this framework can become intuitive, and innovative companies tend to have a consistent and ongoing ability to discover and tackle challenges when they come up.

You might see everything from a four step problem solving process through to seven steps. While all these processes cover roughly the same ground, I’ve found a seven step problem solving process is helpful for making all key steps legible.

We’ll outline that process here and then follow with techniques you can use to explore and work on that step of the problem solving process with a group.

The seven-step problem solving process is:

1. Problem identification 

The first stage of any problem solving process is to identify the problem(s) you need to solve. This often looks like using group discussions and activities to help a group surface and effectively articulate the challenges they’re facing and wish to resolve.

Be sure to align with your team on the exact definition and nature of the problem you’re solving. An effective process is one where everyone is pulling in the same direction – ensure clarity and alignment now to help avoid misunderstandings later.

2. Problem analysis and refinement

The process of problem analysis means ensuring that the problem you are seeking to solve is  the   right problem . Choosing the right problem to solve means you are on the right path to creating the right solution.

At this stage, you may look deeper at the problem you identified to try and discover the root cause at the level of people or process. You may also spend some time sourcing data, consulting relevant parties and creating and refining a problem statement.

Problem refinement means adjusting scope or focus of the problem you will be aiming to solve based on what comes up during your analysis. As you analyze data sources, you might discover that the root cause means you need to adjust your problem statement. Alternatively, you might find that your original problem statement is too big to be meaningful approached within your current project.

Remember that the goal of any problem refinement is to help set the stage for effective solution development and deployment. Set the right focus and get buy-in from your team here and you’ll be well positioned to move forward with confidence.

3. Solution generation

Once your group has nailed down the particulars of the problem you wish to solve, you want to encourage a free flow of ideas connecting to solving that problem. This can take the form of problem solving games that encourage creative thinking or techniquess designed to produce working prototypes of possible solutions. 

The key to ensuring the success of this stage of the problem solving process is to encourage quick, creative thinking and create an open space where all ideas are considered. The best solutions can often come from unlikely places and by using problem solving techniques that celebrate invention, you might come up with solution gold. 

what is problem solving in computer

4. Solution development

No solution is perfect right out of the gate. It’s important to discuss and develop the solutions your group has come up with over the course of following the previous problem solving steps in order to arrive at the best possible solution. Problem solving games used in this stage involve lots of critical thinking, measuring potential effort and impact, and looking at possible solutions analytically. 

During this stage, you will often ask your team to iterate and improve upon your front-running solutions and develop them further. Remember that problem solving strategies always benefit from a multitude of voices and opinions, and not to let ego get involved when it comes to choosing which solutions to develop and take further.

Finding the best solution is the goal of all problem solving workshops and here is the place to ensure that your solution is well thought out, sufficiently robust and fit for purpose. 

5. Decision making and planning

Nearly there! Once you’ve got a set of possible, you’ll need to make a decision on which to implement. This can be a consensus-based group decision or it might be for a leader or major stakeholder to decide. You’ll find a set of effective decision making methods below.

Once your group has reached consensus and selected a solution, there are some additional actions that also need to be decided upon. You’ll want to work on allocating ownership of the project, figure out who will do what, how the success of the solution will be measured and decide the next course of action.

Set clear accountabilities, actions, timeframes, and follow-ups for your chosen solution. Make these decisions and set clear next-steps in the problem solving workshop so that everyone is aligned and you can move forward effectively as a group. 

Ensuring that you plan for the roll-out of a solution is one of the most important problem solving steps. Without adequate planning or oversight, it can prove impossible to measure success or iterate further if the problem was not solved. 

6. Solution implementation 

This is what we were waiting for! All problem solving processes have the end goal of implementing an effective and impactful solution that your group has confidence in.

Project management and communication skills are key here – your solution may need to adjust when out in the wild or you might discover new challenges along the way. For some solutions, you might also implement a test with a small group and monitor results before rolling it out to an entire company.

You should have a clear owner for your solution who will oversee the plans you made together and help ensure they’re put into place. This person will often coordinate the implementation team and set-up processes to measure the efficacy of your solution too.

7. Solution evaluation 

So you and your team developed a great solution to a problem and have a gut feeling it’s been solved. Work done, right? Wrong. All problem solving strategies benefit from evaluation, consideration, and feedback.

You might find that the solution does not work for everyone, might create new problems, or is potentially so successful that you will want to roll it out to larger teams or as part of other initiatives. 

None of that is possible without taking the time to evaluate the success of the solution you developed in your problem solving model and adjust if necessary.

Remember that the problem solving process is often iterative and it can be common to not solve complex issues on the first try. Even when this is the case, you and your team will have generated learning that will be important for future problem solving workshops or in other parts of the organization. 

It’s also worth underlining how important record keeping is throughout the problem solving process. If a solution didn’t work, you need to have the data and records to see why that was the case. If you go back to the drawing board, notes from the previous workshop can help save time.

What does an effective problem solving process look like?

Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . In our experience, a well-structured problem solving workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.

The format of a workshop ensures that you can get buy-in from your group, encourage free-thinking and solution exploration before making a decision on what to implement following the session.

This Design Sprint 2.0 template is an effective problem solving process from top agency AJ&Smart. It’s a great format for the entire problem solving process, with four-days of workshops designed to surface issues, explore solutions and even test a solution.

Check it for an example of how you might structure and run a problem solving process and feel free to copy and adjust it your needs!

For a shorter process you can run in a single afternoon, this remote problem solving agenda will guide you effectively in just a couple of hours.

Whatever the length of your workshop, by using SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.

The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!

what is problem solving in computer

Complete problem-solving methods

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

The Six Thinking Hats   #creative thinking   #meeting facilitation   #problem solving   #issue resolution   #idea generation   #conflict resolution   The Six Thinking Hats are used by individuals and groups to separate out conflicting styles of thinking. They enable and encourage a group of people to think constructively together in exploring and implementing change, rather than using argument to fight over who is right and who is wrong.

Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   It doesn’t matter where you work and what your job role is, if you work with other people together as a team, you will always encounter the same challenges: Unclear goals and miscommunication that cause busy work and overtime Unstructured meetings that leave attendants tired, confused and without clear outcomes. Frustration builds up because internal challenges to productivity are not addressed Sudden changes in priorities lead to a loss of focus and momentum Muddled compromise takes the place of clear decision- making, leaving everybody to come up with their own interpretation. In short, a lack of structure leads to a waste of time and effort, projects that drag on for too long and frustrated, burnt out teams. AJ&Smart has worked with some of the most innovative, productive companies in the world. What sets their teams apart from others is not better tools, bigger talent or more beautiful offices. The secret sauce to becoming a more productive, more creative and happier team is simple: Replace all open discussion or brainstorming with a structured process that leads to more ideas, clearer decisions and better outcomes. When a good process provides guardrails and a clear path to follow, it becomes easier to come up with ideas, make decisions and solve problems. This is why AJ&Smart created Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ). It’s a simple and short, but powerful group exercise that can be run either in-person, in the same room, or remotely with distributed teams.

Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.
Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!


Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for brainstorming solutions

Now you have the context and background of the problem you are trying to solving, now comes the time to start ideating and thinking about how you’ll solve the issue.

Here, you’ll want to encourage creative, free thinking and speed. Get as many ideas out as possible and explore different perspectives so you have the raw material for the next step.

Looking at a problem from a new angle can be one of the most effective ways of creating an effective solution. TRIZ is a problem-solving tool that asks the group to consider what they must not do in order to solve a challenge.

By reversing the discussion, new topics and taboo subjects often emerge, allowing the group to think more deeply and create ideas that confront the status quo in a safe and meaningful way. If you’re working on a problem that you’ve tried to solve before, TRIZ is a great problem-solving method to help your team get unblocked.

Making Space with TRIZ   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #issue resolution   You can clear space for innovation by helping a group let go of what it knows (but rarely admits) limits its success and by inviting creative destruction. TRIZ makes it possible to challenge sacred cows safely and encourages heretical thinking. The question “What must we stop doing to make progress on our deepest purpose?” induces seriously fun yet very courageous conversations. Since laughter often erupts, issues that are otherwise taboo get a chance to be aired and confronted. With creative destruction come opportunities for renewal as local action and innovation rush in to fill the vacuum. Whoosh!


Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

Idea and Concept Development

Brainstorming without structure can quickly become chaotic or frustrating. In a problem-solving context, having an ideation framework to follow can help ensure your team is both creative and disciplined.

In this method, you’ll find an idea generation process that encourages your group to brainstorm effectively before developing their ideas and begin clustering them together. By using concepts such as Yes and…, more is more and postponing judgement, you can create the ideal conditions for brainstorming with ease.

Idea & Concept Development   #hyperisland   #innovation   #idea generation   Ideation and Concept Development is a process for groups to work creatively and collaboratively to generate creative ideas. It’s a general approach that can be adapted and customized to suit many different scenarios. It includes basic principles for idea generation and several steps for groups to work with. It also includes steps for idea selection and development.

Problem-solving techniques for developing and refining solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to develop and refine your ideas in order to bring them closer to a solution that actually solves the problem.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team think through their ideas and refine them as part of your problem solving process.

Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

Ensuring that everyone in a group is able to contribute to a discussion is vital during any problem solving process. Not only does this ensure all bases are covered, but its then easier to get buy-in and accountability when people have been able to contribute to the process.

1-2-4-All is a tried and tested facilitation technique where participants are asked to first brainstorm on a topic on their own. Next, they discuss and share ideas in a pair before moving into a small group. Those groups are then asked to present the best idea from their discussion to the rest of the team.

This method can be used in many different contexts effectively, though I find it particularly shines in the idea development stage of the process. Giving each participant time to concretize their ideas and develop them in progressively larger groups can create a great space for both innovation and psychological safety.

1-2-4-All   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #issue analysis   With this facilitation technique you can immediately include everyone regardless of how large the group is. You can generate better ideas and more of them faster than ever before. You can tap the know-how and imagination that is distributed widely in places not known in advance. Open, generative conversation unfolds. Ideas and solutions are sifted in rapid fashion. Most importantly, participants own the ideas, so follow-up and implementation is simplified. No buy-in strategies needed! Simple and elegant!

15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

Problem-solving techniques for making decisions and planning

After your group is happy with the possible solutions you’ve developed, now comes the time to choose which to implement. There’s more than one way to make a decision and the best option is often dependant on the needs and set-up of your group.

Sometimes, it’s the case that you’ll want to vote as a group on what is likely to be the most impactful solution. Other times, it might be down to a decision maker or major stakeholder to make the final decision. Whatever your process, here’s some techniques you can use to help you make a decision during your problem solving process.

How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

Straddling the gap between decision making and planning, MoSCoW is a simple and effective method that allows a group team to easily prioritize a set of possible options.

Use this method in a problem solving process by collecting and summarizing all your possible solutions and then categorize them into 4 sections: “Must have”, “Should have”, “Could have”, or “Would like but won‘t get”.

This method is particularly useful when its less about choosing one possible solution and more about prioritorizing which to do first and which may not fit in the scope of your project. In my experience, complex challenges often require multiple small fixes, and this method can be a great way to move from a pile of things you’d all like to do to a structured plan.

MoSCoW   #define intentions   #create   #design   #action   #remote-friendly   MoSCoW is a method that allows the team to prioritize the different features that they will work on. Features are then categorized into “Must have”, “Should have”, “Could have”, or “Would like but won‘t get”. To be used at the beginning of a timeslot (for example during Sprint planning) and when planning is needed.

When it comes to managing the rollout of a solution, clarity and accountability are key factors in ensuring the success of the project. The RAACI chart is a simple but effective model for setting roles and responsibilities as part of a planning session.

Start by listing each person involved in the project and put them into the following groups in order to make it clear who is responsible for what during the rollout of your solution.

  • Responsibility  (Which person and/or team will be taking action?)
  • Authority  (At what “point” must the responsible person check in before going further?)
  • Accountability  (Who must the responsible person check in with?)
  • Consultation  (Who must be consulted by the responsible person before decisions are made?)
  • Information  (Who must be informed of decisions, once made?)

Ensure this information is easily accessible and use it to inform who does what and who is looped into discussions and kept up to date.

RAACI   #roles and responsibility   #teamwork   #project management   Clarifying roles and responsibilities, levels of autonomy/latitude in decision making, and levels of engagement among diverse stakeholders.

Problem-solving warm-up activities

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process. Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.


Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Closing activities for a problem-solving process

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Tips for effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Create psychologically safe spaces for discussion

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner.

It can be tough for people to stand up and contribute if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions and where possible, create regular opportunities for challenges to be brought up organically.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design a great agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!

Save time and effort creating an effective problem solving process

A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?

With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks  to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session  timing   adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.

Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.

Explore  how to use SessionLab  to design effective problem solving workshops or  watch this five minute video  to see the planner in action!

what is problem solving in computer

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

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thank you very much for these excellent techniques

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Certainly wonderful article, very detailed. Shared!

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Your list of techniques for problem solving can be helpfully extended by adding TRIZ to the list of techniques. TRIZ has 40 problem solving techniques derived from methods inventros and patent holders used to get new patents. About 10-12 are general approaches. many organization sponsor classes in TRIZ that are used to solve business problems or general organiztational problems. You can take a look at TRIZ and dwonload a free internet booklet to see if you feel it shound be included per your selection process.

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what is problem solving in computer

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what is problem solving in computer

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Problem Solving in Computer Science: What Does It Really Mean?

Teacher scholar voices.

what is problem solving in computer

A Daunting Challenge

Many of my students complain when asked to read technical literature, despite my efforts to make it fun and relevant. Especially in my most advanced computer science class, it becomes difficult to use material that is exciting and topical for my students because the choice of reading is ultimately out of my hands. By the end of the year, on the Advanced Placement Computer Science A exam, students must be able to read and respond to approximately 8 pages of obscure (and sometimes bizarre) scenarios related to programming in Java. The first time I asked my students to practice responding to one such Free Response Question (FRQ), one in five students simply left it blank and took a nap. 

Weeks of practicing FRQs went by but there were no changes in how my students responded to the task. I was confused by their lackluster efforts, and my students were frustrated that they were continually asked to engage in “boring” assignments. However, I knew that if my students were going to be successful on the exam, they would need to attempt to respond to these questions and respond to them correctly. More importantly, through the regular practice of responding to such questions, they would begin to develop critical abstract reasoning skills, whose importance extends well beyond the AP exam. Simple, right?

Reading Comprehension: the Root of the Problem

Honestly, I had no idea how to tackle this problem at first. However, with the support of my Mills Teacher Scholars inquiry colleagues, we began to notice that many of my students were not responding to the FRQ prompt in full, even though they appeared to be engaged in the task the entire time. I felt that the problem was rooted in reading comprehension. So, to support my students’ deeper comprehension of these technical texts, I decided to focus my inquiry on building classroom practices that develop annotation skills. I spent the next six months with my inquiry group refining a series of weekly activities that involved circling key vocabulary terms, underlining prompts, jotting down ideas in margins, and then attempting a response to the questions that fell out of each reading. After students individually practiced their annotation skills, they would act as public learners for each other, guiding the class through their thinking about the text. By the end of my inquiry, 86.5% of my students were naturally utilizing these annotation skills for the FRQs. I was delighted to see that they were developing their critical reading abilities. However, their actual scores never changed. 

Confidence Matters Too

I was so confused! How could my students complete our reading comprehension strategies and still exhibit the same response behaviors seen at the beginning of the year? Why was it so difficult to simply put pen to paper and attempt a response? What did they have to lose? I took these mixed feelings back to my inquiry colleagues, who suggested that it might be enlightening to interview three focal students. 

After compiling the interview transcripts, I went back to my inquiry group, hoping that my colleagues might help me fill in this blind spot. Their questions challenged my assumptions, ultimately allowing me to focus on a new culprit: my students did not feel confident enough to try. For example, one of my students said, “I know how to read. I just don’t know how to respond. So what is the point of trying if I know I’m going to get it wrong?”  This was really surprising to hear. I thought I knew how they felt; I thought they were confident in their abilities to solve problems through code. My focus on reading comprehension had not been enough. I needed to figure out how to develop their confidence as problem solvers, too.

A Question Leads to New Questions

The quest to understand students’ learning lasts much longer than one school year. This year’s struggle motivates me to seek out answers to related questions in the coming fall. For instance, what builds confidence over time in a computer science course, and what changes for students’ identities as learners over time? I have started mulling over instructional strategies that balance “engagement” with rigorous exposure to CS. Most of the time, it feels like engagement and rigor are at odds with each other, especially when you begin to integrate notions of an “appropriate” CS education from some of the field’s most prominent minds. In his essay “On the Cruelty of Really Teaching Computer Science,” E.W. Dijkstra wrote that students should spend their first CS class writing formal proofs about the correctness of their programs. While this approach may be academically rigorous, I am not sure it engages students who still need to be sold on the idea of computer science. My most recent inquiry has started me thinking that a student’s confidence is buried in the slim overlap between rigorous exposure to subject matter and engaging learning experiences. This multifaceted question can feel daunting to address as an individual educator. However, I am not alone. I know that I can continue to lean on future cycles of inquiry, as well as the wonderful community of instructors who, like me, are set on figuring it all out.

what is problem solving in computer

My colleagues' questions challenged my assumptions, ultimately allowing me to focus on a new culprit: my students did not feel confident enough to try.

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What is Problem Solving Algorithm?, Steps, Representation

Table of Contents

  • 1 What is Problem Solving Algorithm?
  • 2 Definition of Problem Solving Algorithm
  • 3.1 Analysing the Problem
  • 3.2 Developing an Algorithm
  • 3.4 Testing and Debugging
  • 4.1 Flowchart
  • 4.2 Pseudo code

What is Problem Solving Algorithm?

Computers are used for solving various day-to-day problems and thus problem solving is an essential skill that a computer science student should know. It is pertinent to mention that computers themselves cannot solve a problem. Precise step-by-step instructions should be given by us to solve the problem.

Thus, the success of a computer in solving a problem depends on how correctly and precisely we define the problem, design a solution (algorithm) and implement the solution (program) using a programming language.

Thus, problem solving is the process of identifying a problem, developing an algorithm for the identified problem and finally implementing the algorithm to develop a computer program.

Definition of Problem Solving Algorithm

These are some simple definition of problem solving algorithm which given below:

Steps for Problem Solving

When problems are straightforward and easy, we can easily find the solution. But a complex problem requires a methodical approach to find the right solution. In other words, we have to apply problem solving techniques.

Problem solving begins with the precise identification of the problem and ends with a complete working solution in terms of a program or software. Key steps required for solving a problem using a computer.

For Example: Suppose while driving, a vehicle starts making a strange noise. We might not know how to solve the problem right away. First, we need to identify from where the noise is coming? In case the problem cannot be solved by us, then we need to take the vehicle to a mechanic.

The mechanic will analyse the problem to identify the source of the noise, make a plan about the work to be done and finally repair the vehicle in order to remove the noise. From the example, it is explicit that, finding the solution to a problem might consist of multiple steps.

Following are Steps for Problem Solving :

Analysing the Problem

Developing an algorithm, testing and debugging.

Steps for Problem Solving

It is important to clearly understand a problem before we begin to find the solution for it. If we are not clear as to what is to be solved, we may end up developing a program which may not solve our purpose.

Thus, we need to read and analyse the problem statement carefully in order to list the principal components of the problem and decide the core functionalities that our solution should have. By analysing a problem, we would be able to figure out what are the inputs that our program should accept and the outputs that it should produce.

It is essential to device a solution before writing a program code for a given problem. The solution is represented in natural language and is called an algorithm. We can imagine an algorithm like a very well-written recipe for a dish, with clearly defined steps that, if followed, one will end up preparing the dish.

We start with a tentative solution plan and keep on refining the algorithm until the algorithm is able to capture all the aspects of the desired solution. For a given problem, more than one algorithm is possible and we have to select the most suitable solution.

After finalising the algorithm, we need to convert the algorithm into the format which can be understood by the computer to generate the desired solution. Different high level programming languages can be used for writing a program. It is equally important to record the details of the coding procedures followed and document the solution. This is helpful when revisiting the programs at a later stage.

The program created should be tested on various parameters. The program should meet the requirements of the user. It must respond within the expected time. It should generate correct output for all possible inputs. In the presence of syntactical errors, no output will be obtained. In case the output generated is incorrect, then the program should be checked for logical errors, if any.

Software industry follows standardised testing methods like unit or component testing, integration testing, system testing, and acceptance testing while developing complex applications. This is to ensure that the software meets all the business and technical requirements and works as expected.

The errors or defects found in the testing phases are debugged or rectified and the program is again tested. This continues till all the errors are removed from the program. Once the software application has been developed, tested and delivered to the user, still problems in terms of functioning can come up and need to be resolved from time to time.

The maintenance of the solution, thus, involves fixing the problems faced by the user, answering the queries of the user and even serving the request for addition or modification of features.

Representation of Algorithms

Using their algorithmic thinking skills, the software designers or programmers analyse the problem and identify the logical steps that need to be followed to reach a solution. Once the steps are identified, the need is to write down these steps along with the required input and desired output.

There are two common methods of representing an algorithm —flowchart and pseudocode. Either of the methods can be used to represent an algorithm while keeping in mind the following:

  • It showcases the logic of the problem solution, excluding any implementational details.
  • It clearly reveals the flow of control during execution of the program.

A flowchart is a visual representation of an algorithm . A flowchart is a diagram made up of boxes, diamonds and other shapes, connected by arrows. Each shape represents a step of the solution process and the arrow represents the order or link among the steps.

A flow chart is a step by step diagrammatic representation of the logic paths to solve a given problem. Or A flowchart is visual or graphical representation of an algorithm .

The flowcharts are pictorial representation of the methods to b used to solve a given problem and help a great deal to analyze the problem and plan its solution in a systematic and orderly manner. A flowchart when translated in to a proper computer language, results in a complete program.

Advantages of Flowcharts:

  • The flowchart shows the logic of a problem displayed in pictorial fashion which felicitates easier checking of an algorithm
  • The Flowchart is good means of communication to other users. It is also a compact means of recording an algorithm solution to a problem.
  • The flowchart allows the problem solver to break the problem into parts. These parts can be connected to make master chart.
  • The flowchart is a permanent record of the solution which can be consulted at a later time.

Differences between Algorithm and Flowchart

1A method of representing the step-by-step logical procedure for solving a problem.Flowchart is diagrammatic representation of an algorithm. It is constructed using different types of boxes and symbols.
2It contains step-by-step English descriptions, each step representing a particular operation leading to solution of problem.The flowchart employs a series of blocks and arrows, each of which represents a particular step in an algorithm.
3These are particularly useful for small problems.These are useful for detailed representations of complicated programs.
4For complex programs, algorithms prove to be Inadequate.For complex programs, Flowcharts prove to be adequate.

Pseudo code

The Pseudo code is neither an algorithm nor a program. It is an abstract form of a program. It consists of English like statements which perform the specific operations. It is defined for an algorithm. It does not use any graphical representation.

In pseudo code , the program is represented in terms of words and phrases, but the syntax of program is not strictly followed.

Advantages of Pseudocode

  • Before writing codes in a high level language, a pseudocode of a program helps in representing the basic functionality of the intended program.
  • By writing the code first in a human readable language, the programmer safeguards against leaving out any important step. Besides, for non-programmers, actual programs are difficult to read and understand.
  • But pseudocode helps them to review the steps to confirm that the proposed implementation is going to achieve the desire output.

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What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)

By Status.net Editorial Team on May 7, 2023 — 5 minutes to read

What Is Problem Solving?

Definition and importance.

Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to obstacles or challenges you encounter in your life or work. It is a crucial skill that allows you to tackle complex situations, adapt to changes, and overcome difficulties with ease. Mastering this ability will contribute to both your personal and professional growth, leading to more successful outcomes and better decision-making.

Problem-Solving Steps

The problem-solving process typically includes the following steps:

  • Identify the issue : Recognize the problem that needs to be solved.
  • Analyze the situation : Examine the issue in depth, gather all relevant information, and consider any limitations or constraints that may be present.
  • Generate potential solutions : Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to the issue, without immediately judging or evaluating them.
  • Evaluate options : Weigh the pros and cons of each potential solution, considering factors such as feasibility, effectiveness, and potential risks.
  • Select the best solution : Choose the option that best addresses the problem and aligns with your objectives.
  • Implement the solution : Put the selected solution into action and monitor the results to ensure it resolves the issue.
  • Review and learn : Reflect on the problem-solving process, identify any improvements or adjustments that can be made, and apply these learnings to future situations.

Defining the Problem

To start tackling a problem, first, identify and understand it. Analyzing the issue thoroughly helps to clarify its scope and nature. Ask questions to gather information and consider the problem from various angles. Some strategies to define the problem include:

  • Brainstorming with others
  • Asking the 5 Ws and 1 H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How)
  • Analyzing cause and effect
  • Creating a problem statement

Generating Solutions

Once the problem is clearly understood, brainstorm possible solutions. Think creatively and keep an open mind, as well as considering lessons from past experiences. Consider:

  • Creating a list of potential ideas to solve the problem
  • Grouping and categorizing similar solutions
  • Prioritizing potential solutions based on feasibility, cost, and resources required
  • Involving others to share diverse opinions and inputs

Evaluating and Selecting Solutions

Evaluate each potential solution, weighing its pros and cons. To facilitate decision-making, use techniques such as:

  • SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Decision-making matrices
  • Pros and cons lists
  • Risk assessments

After evaluating, choose the most suitable solution based on effectiveness, cost, and time constraints.

Implementing and Monitoring the Solution

Implement the chosen solution and monitor its progress. Key actions include:

  • Communicating the solution to relevant parties
  • Setting timelines and milestones
  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities
  • Monitoring the solution and making adjustments as necessary
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the solution after implementation

Utilize feedback from stakeholders and consider potential improvements. Remember that problem-solving is an ongoing process that can always be refined and enhanced.

Problem-Solving Techniques

During each step, you may find it helpful to utilize various problem-solving techniques, such as:

  • Brainstorming : A free-flowing, open-minded session where ideas are generated and listed without judgment, to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
  • Root cause analysis : A method that explores the underlying causes of a problem to find the most effective solution rather than addressing superficial symptoms.
  • SWOT analysis : A tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a problem or decision, providing a comprehensive view of the situation.
  • Mind mapping : A visual technique that uses diagrams to organize and connect ideas, helping to identify patterns, relationships, and possible solutions.


When facing a problem, start by conducting a brainstorming session. Gather your team and encourage an open discussion where everyone contributes ideas, no matter how outlandish they may seem. This helps you:

  • Generate a diverse range of solutions
  • Encourage all team members to participate
  • Foster creative thinking

When brainstorming, remember to:

  • Reserve judgment until the session is over
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Combine and improve upon ideas

Root Cause Analysis

For effective problem-solving, identifying the root cause of the issue at hand is crucial. Try these methods:

  • 5 Whys : Ask “why” five times to get to the underlying cause.
  • Fishbone Diagram : Create a diagram representing the problem and break it down into categories of potential causes.
  • Pareto Analysis : Determine the few most significant causes underlying the majority of problems.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis helps you examine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to your problem. To perform a SWOT analysis:

  • List your problem’s strengths, such as relevant resources or strong partnerships.
  • Identify its weaknesses, such as knowledge gaps or limited resources.
  • Explore opportunities, like trends or new technologies, that could help solve the problem.
  • Recognize potential threats, like competition or regulatory barriers.

SWOT analysis aids in understanding the internal and external factors affecting the problem, which can help guide your solution.

Mind Mapping

A mind map is a visual representation of your problem and potential solutions. It enables you to organize information in a structured and intuitive manner. To create a mind map:

  • Write the problem in the center of a blank page.
  • Draw branches from the central problem to related sub-problems or contributing factors.
  • Add more branches to represent potential solutions or further ideas.

Mind mapping allows you to visually see connections between ideas and promotes creativity in problem-solving.

Examples of Problem Solving in Various Contexts

In the business world, you might encounter problems related to finances, operations, or communication. Applying problem-solving skills in these situations could look like:

  • Identifying areas of improvement in your company’s financial performance and implementing cost-saving measures
  • Resolving internal conflicts among team members by listening and understanding different perspectives, then proposing and negotiating solutions
  • Streamlining a process for better productivity by removing redundancies, automating tasks, or re-allocating resources

In educational contexts, problem-solving can be seen in various aspects, such as:

  • Addressing a gap in students’ understanding by employing diverse teaching methods to cater to different learning styles
  • Developing a strategy for successful time management to balance academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities
  • Seeking resources and support to provide equal opportunities for learners with special needs or disabilities

Everyday life is full of challenges that require problem-solving skills. Some examples include:

  • Overcoming a personal obstacle, such as improving your fitness level, by establishing achievable goals, measuring progress, and adjusting your approach accordingly
  • Navigating a new environment or city by researching your surroundings, asking for directions, or using technology like GPS to guide you
  • Dealing with a sudden change, like a change in your work schedule, by assessing the situation, identifying potential impacts, and adapting your plans to accommodate the change.
  • How to Resolve Employee Conflict at Work [Steps, Tips, Examples]
  • How to Write Inspiring Core Values? 5 Steps with Examples
  • 30 Employee Feedback Examples (Positive & Negative)

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Computer Science > Computation and Language

Title: octo-planner: on-device language model for planner-action agents.

Abstract: AI agents have become increasingly significant in various domains, enabling autonomous decision-making and problem-solving. To function effectively, these agents require a planning process that determines the best course of action and then executes the planned actions. In this paper, we present an efficient on-device Planner-Action framework that separates planning and action execution into two distinct components: a planner agent based on Phi-3 Mini, a 3.8 billion parameter LLM optimized for edge devices, and an action agent using the Octopus model for function execution. The planner agent first responds to user queries by decomposing tasks into a sequence of sub-steps, which are then executed by the action agent. To optimize performance on resource-constrained devices, we employ model fine-tuning instead of in-context learning, reducing computational costs and energy consumption while improving response times. Our approach involves using GPT-4 to generate diverse planning queries and responses based on available functions, with subsequent validations to ensure data quality. We fine-tune the Phi-3 Mini model on this curated dataset, achieving a 97\% success rate in our in-domain test environment. To address multi-domain planning challenges, we developed a multi-LoRA training method that merges weights from LoRAs trained on distinct function subsets. This approach enables flexible handling of complex, multi-domain queries while maintaining computational efficiency on resource-constrained devices. To support further research, we have open-sourced our model weights at \url{ this https URL }. For the demo, please refer to \url{ this https URL }.
Subjects: Computation and Language (cs.CL); Human-Computer Interaction (cs.HC)
Cite as: [cs.CL]
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Solving the 12 Most Common Customer Problems [Guide]

11 min read

Solving customer problems banner image

A surefire way to improve engagement and retention is to focus on solving customer problems.

Think about it – what would you do if you needed help but all you got was an incredibly unhelpful customer service agent? Chances are, you would take your business elsewhere.

That is precisely why you need to focus on improving your customer service problem-solving and providing excellent support focused on reducing the number of dissatisfied customers.

Where to get started? That’s what this guide is for, outlining frequent customer service issues and their solutions.

  • Customer service problem-solving is the process of identifying and efficiently resolving customer concerns in a timely manner.
  • Focusing on solving customer problems is vital because it offers key benefits, like improved retention , satisfaction , and loyalty , along with reduced support costs.
  • Common customer service issues include lengthy wait times, inaccessible human reps, slow resolution, inconsistent support quality , and poor communication skills of the support team.
  • A few shared reasons, like insufficient training, limited staffing, complex customer issues, and no standardized procedures or centralized knowledge bases , cause these issues.
  • Possible solutions for these complaints involve implementing callback systems, simplifying automated menus, establishing clear resolution timelines, and standardizing training.
  • Some additional effective techniques for problem-solving include empathizing, active listening, sincerely apologizing, proactively communicating, and offering compensation where needed.
  • Improving your self-service resources and ensuring consistent operating hours are also useful best practices.
  • Ready to optimize your customer service problem-solving strategy? Schedule a Userpilot demo and see how you can get started.

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what is problem solving in computer

What is customer service problem-solving?

Customer service problem-solving is a discipline focused on optimally identifying, addressing, and resolving issues customers encounter with a product or service.

It is important to note that, contrary to its name, customer service problem-solving is not just about fixing customer complaints.

It’s much more complex than that.

It requires effective problem-solving skills along with other key capabilities like communication , empathy , and critical thinking. It’s also about creating a system where all customer issues are prevented or solved as fast and efficiently as possible.

If done right, customer service problem-solving offers great benefits, such as improved customer satisfaction and loyalty .

Why solving customer problems is so important

Providing excellent customer service is a whole art, one that requires you to develop a functional strategy to do it right. But once you perfect your customer service problem-solving and better train your customer service team, the benefits are endless. Here are just a few:

  • Increases customer retention .
  • Enhances customer experience .
  • Builds customer loyalty.
  • Encourages customer engagement .
  • Reduces support costs.
  • Facilitates customer feedback collection.
  • Drives customer satisfaction.

12 most common customer service problems (and how to fix them)

Different companies run into several types of customer service issues. However, there are quite a few recurring customer queries and complaints almost all customer service agents face. So let’s deep dive into what these are and learn the golden rules needed to solve customer service problems.

1. Long wait times

When you look at customer feedback, a common problem that frequently comes up is how often customers have to wait for customer support . All these extended hold times and long queues just add to the customer’s annoyance and dissatisfaction .

Main reasons :

  • High call volume.
  • Insufficient staffing.
  • Complex customer complaints.
  • Inadequate training .
  • Limited self-service options.
  • Backlog of unresolved issues.

Implement a callback system so customers don’t have to wait hours to talk to a customer service rep. Next, focus on streamlining your processes and consider increasing staffing during peak hours. Lastly, introduce chatbots for instant support on low-priority issues.

Solving customer problems with chatbots

2. Frustration with inaccessible human reps

Customers often get frustrated with complex automated customer service menus and the inability to reach a human representative.

  • Cost-saving strategies.
  • Fewer customer service representatives.
  • Outdated technology .
  • Poor menu design .
  • Language limitations.

There are several ways to solve this customer service problem. Start by simplifying automated menus and adding a clear option to speak with a human customer service agent.

Additionally, create comprehensive self-service materials so customers can troubleshoot independently. Also, regularly test the system for ease of usability and accessibility.

3. Slow resolution times

The next common customer service problem is customers having to follow up multiple times to get their issues resolved. This need to constantly check up on the issue wastes more of the customer’s time and is a sign of poor customer service.

  • High workload and ticket volume .
  • Complicated customer issues.
  • Poor internal communication .
  • Incomplete issue documentation .
  • Ineffective prioritization of tasks.

Establish a clear resolution timeline, improve internal communication, and ensure regular follow-ups with customers until the issues are resolved.

4. Inconsistent support across channels

Customers experience different levels of support quality depending on the contact channel they use. So, a chatbot might not offer much help but an email ends up providing effective customer service problem-solving. This inconsistency only leaves customers confused about which channel to trust .

Main Reasons :

  • Varying levels of support training.
  • Different support team structures .
  • Inconsistent use of knowledge bases.
  • Lack of standardized procedures.
  • Limited integration between channels.

Start by providing consistent training and resources to service reps across all platforms. Next, ensure that all support channels are well-integrated so information and user data flow seamlessly between them.

Resource center for self-service

A good example of such omnichannel communication is Bluehost, which offers the same quality of live chat and phone support.

Bluehost support team

5. Excessive transfers between departments

Instead of any issue resolution , customers are often transferred several times between departments without making any progress . In the end, all that’s left is an angry customer and their unresolved complaint.

  • Poor initial issue categorization.
  • High specialization within departments.
  • Insufficient cross-department communication.
  • Inconsistent problem-solving protocols.
  • Miscommunication or misunderstandings.

Instead of having multiple departments handle specific issues, train all customer service agents to handle a wide range of problems . Also, establish clear protocols for when transfers are necessary and explain the procedure to customers as well.

6. Poor communication skills of customer service reps

Sometimes customers feel undervalued and misunderstood because the customer service representatives lack empathy , communication, or problem-solving skills.

  • Insufficient training programs .
  • Inadequate soft skills development.
  • Lack of performance monitoring .
  • Limited knowledge of products or services.
  • Limited focus on customer empathy .

Invest in your customer support team, training them in skills like empathy, active listening, and clear communication. Introduce regular monitoring and evaluation of customer service interactions , via CES surveys for example, for quality control.

CES surveys for solving customer problems

7. Insufficient knowledge among support staff

Oftentimes, support representatives fail at customer service problem-solving because they lack relevant knowledge . In some cases, they even recommend wrong solutions , which only worsen the customer complaint and potentially increase churn and losses.

  • Lack of customer service training.
  • Limited access to updated product information .
  • Complex product or service offerings.
  • Rapid changes in products or services.
  • Poorly designed knowledge management systems .

Provide comprehensive training to your customer representatives, ensuring that they are well-versed with the product or service.

Next, try maintaining an up-to-date customer service knowledge base that is accessible to all. This way, representatives can refer to it whenever needed instead of suggesting flawed solutions.

8. Conflicting information from different reps

A common customer complaint is how often they receive conflicting information from different support representatives, leading to confusion and greater mistrust.

  • Lack of clear documentation and standardized procedures.
  • Inconsistent training across different departments.
  • Outdated or inaccurate knowledge base .
  • Insufficient supervision and monitoring .
  • Varying levels of agent experience.

Make sure all customer service agents are on the same page, by standardizing important information and procedures. Moreover, ensure that each team member gets access to the same resources , training, and product information.

9. Perceived difficulty in contacting customer service

Sometimes, the customer service problem-solving quality itself isn’t the issue. Instead, the problem is that some companies avoid direct contact, making customers exert a lot of effort to get in touch with customer service.

  • Cost reduction strategies.
  • Overreliance on self-service options and automation .
  • Limited staffing resources.
  • Overwhelmed support infrastructure.
  • Challenges in scaling customer support operations.

Make contact information easily accessible, mentioning it clearly at several touchpoints . Also, to cater to varying customer needs , provide multiple contact channels, and ensure prompt responses.

Hostinger does a good job at this, clearly outlining numerous support channels, along with links to other help center resources like tutorials :

Hostinger's customer service contacts

10. Difficulty in resolving issues through self-service

Providing self-service options is great, but it shouldn’t be the only way customers can get help . Companies need to consider that not all customers find it easy to troubleshoot and resolve issues on their own.

  • Complex or inaccessible UI design .
  • Lack of sufficient information.
  • Limited types of content (e.g. only blogs, no videos or tooltips ).
  • Technical glitches or bugs .
  • Inability to handle complex customer complaints.
  • No human support options.

Simplify self-service interfaces and ensure easy access to human support as well for customers who prefer it.

Self-service options

Introduce various content types within the resource center , such as comprehensive and interactive guides , FAQs, blogs, case studies , checklists , etc.

Resource center for solving customer problems

11. Unresolved customer issues

Usually, the main reason behind decreasing customer satisfaction is simple: their problems and complaints aren’t getting resolved. When this happens, customers feel neglected and are more at risk of churning .

  • Lack of technical skills and training.
  • Inadequate knowledge management systems .
  • Complexity of the product or service.
  • High employee turnover affects resolution continuity.
  • Poor integration between departments.
  • Ineffective prioritization of customer issues.

To improve customer retention, implement a follow-up system to ensure all issues are resolved and offer timely updates to customers. In addition, provide personalized customer service to build trust and understand specific pain points so you can resolve issues better.

12. Inconsistent operating hours

Last but not least, a recurring customer service problem is when support is not available at consistent or convenient times. This just makes it harder for customers to seek help , causing them to ultimately give up on your business entirely.

  • Limited resources for 24/7 support.
  • Lack of sufficient staffing to cover all time zones.
  • High cost associated with around-the-clock service reps.
  • Difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff for non-traditional hours.

To avoid any confusion, standardize your operating hours and communicate them clearly to customers. If customer complaints about operating hours still continue, then consider providing extended hours as well.

Here’s an example by SiteGround that clearly advertises it’s 24-hour support:

24/7 help for solving customer problems

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The key customer service problem-solving techniques.

Now that you’ve gone over all the common customer complaints and queries, it’s time to focus on making sure they don’t happen again. To help with that, here are the top customer service problem-solving best practices guaranteed to delight customers.

Empathy, active listening, and personalization

One simple technique for providing the best customer support is to listen carefully. This requires that you solely focus on the customer without any distractions, show interest, and ask clarifying questions. Only through such active listening can you truly understand the customer’s needs .

Along with listening intently, you also need to be patient and reflect on the customer’s feelings. In other words, you must empathize with your customers’ experience before jumping to a solution. This helps build trust and rapport necessary for long-lasting relationships.

Lastly, it is important to acknowledge that all customers are unique, and therefore each customer’s problem should be treated individually. This allows for a more personalized solution , best-suited for the customer’s specific complaint.

Troubleshooting based on experience

It’s true – practice does make perfect. So if you want to improve your customer service problem-solving skills, the best way is through hands-on experience . The more practice you get working on and learning from previous cases, the more your ability to diagnose and fix issues will improve.

However, this doesn’t mean you don’t need any training at all. Instead, the two go hand-in-hand. Training provides the necessary foundational knowledge , while hands-on experience refines that knowledge through practical application .

Both these things also help ensure cross-department exchange of information and improved collaboration over time.

Providing sincere apologies

A golden rule of customer service: Never ever argue with the customer. When a customer is upset or in need of help, arguing with them will only make matters worse. Plus, arguing only further ruins the customer experience and could lead to negative word of mouth .

The right thing to do is to apologize sincerely. Often, a genuine apology is all customers need to feel validated, helping de-escalate the situation. Moreover, once you’ve apologized, customers are more open to trusting you, thereby making them receptive to any proposed solutions.

To ensure an apology is effective, it should be timely, specific to the customer’s issue, and accompanied by a clear plan for resolution. If done right, sincere apologies contribute greatly to customer satisfaction , loyalty, and a positive brand reputation.

Consistent follow-up and proactive communication

In order to provide effective customer support, simply resolving the problem is not enough. There are other elements you need to simultaneously take care of as well, to provide customers with a seamless experience throughout.

To start off, the service team must keep customers informed about the progress of their issues. This includes letting them know of any delays or necessary follow-up actions. Such transparency in the resolution process helps reassure the customer and highlights your commitment to customer service.

Even after providing a solution, you must follow up with the customer again to ensure the problem has been fully resolved.

Offer compensation

In certain cases, simply apologizing for the issue is not sufficient. Rather, it is important that you offer compensation for the negative experience.

This helps repair the relationship by demonstrating accountability on your part and showing how committed you are to customer satisfaction . It also provides a tangible gesture of goodwill , which can hopefully reduce any negative impact the issue may have caused.

Glovo (a food delivery app) is a good example to quote here. If your order is missing some parts or has other issues, Glovo often issues instant refunds.

Compensation helps customer service

Improving self-service resources

Finally, the last trick to perfecting your customer service problem-solving ability is to create comprehensive self-service options . These can include resource centers, knowledge bases , how-to videos, community forums, help center portals, user guides , and more.

Providing these resources empowers customers to quickly resolve issues on their own, reducing wait times and boosting satisfaction . Additionally, self-service portals also decrease the workload on customer service teams, enabling them to focus on more complex inquiries.

Customize resource center

For example, here’s a look at the self-service options Zendesk offers:

Zendesk solving customer problems

Effectively and quickly solving customer problems is crucial for driving retention and enhancing satisfaction. But there are several other facets to customer service problem-solving to keep in mind too, such as empathy, active listening, and other soft skills.

To make things easier, try keeping a few tips and best practices in mind. For example, focus on training your customer service team, proactively communicating, offering multiple channels of contact, and enhancing self-service resources.

With all these techniques in hand, you’ll be able to reduce churn and create a positive customer experience in no time!

Want to get started solving customer problems? Get a Userpilot Demo and see how you can improve customer loyalty.

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Welcome to the daily solving of our PROBLEM OF THE DAY with Ayush Tripathi. We will discuss the entire problem step-by-step and work towards developing an optimized solution. This will not only help you brush up on your concepts of Matrix but also build up problem-solving skills. Given a two-dimensional integer array arr of dimensions n x n , consisting solely of zeros and ones, identify the row or column (using 0-based indexing) where all elements form a palindrome. If multiple palindromes are identified, prioritize the palindromes found in rows over those in columns. Within rows or columns, the palindrome with the smaller index takes precedence. The result should be represented by the index followed by either 'R' or 'C' , indicating whether the palindrome was located in a row or column. The output should be space-separated. If no palindrome is found, return the string -1 .

Input :  arr[][] =  [[1, 0, 0],             [0, 1, 0],            [1, 1, 0]] Output:  1 R Explanation : In the first test case, 0-1-0 is a palindrome occuring in a row having index 1.

Give the problem a try before going through the video. All the best!!! Problem Link: https://practice.geeksforgeeks.org/problems/the-palindrome-pattern3900/1

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