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.

Decomposition

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.

Abstraction

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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How to Incorporate Candidate Feedback Into Your Hiring Process

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.

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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Browse Course Material

Course info.

  • Prof. John Guttag

Departments

  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

As Taught In

  • Computer Science

Introduction to Computer Science and Programming

Lecture 3: problem solving.

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  • Download transcript

MIT Open Learning

Problem Solving

Foundations course, introduction.

Before we start digging into some pretty nifty JavaScript, we need to begin talking about problem solving : the most important skill a developer needs.

Problem solving is the core thing software developers do. The programming languages and tools they use are secondary to this fundamental skill.

From his book, “Think Like a Programmer” , V. Anton Spraul defines problem solving in programming as:

Problem solving is writing an original program that performs a particular set of tasks and meets all stated constraints.

The set of tasks can range from solving small coding exercises all the way up to building a social network site like Facebook or a search engine like Google. Each problem has its own set of constraints, for example, high performance and scalability may not matter too much in a coding exercise but it will be vital in apps like Google that need to service billions of search queries each day.

New programmers often find problem solving the hardest skill to build. It’s not uncommon for budding programmers to breeze through learning syntax and programming concepts, yet when trying to code something on their own, they find themselves staring blankly at their text editor not knowing where to start.

The best way to improve your problem solving ability is by building experience by making lots and lots of programs. The more practice you have the better you’ll be prepared to solve real world problems.

In this lesson we will walk through a few techniques that can be used to help with the problem solving process.

Lesson overview

This section contains a general overview of topics that you will learn in this lesson.

  • Explain the three steps in the problem solving process.
  • Explain what pseudocode is and be able to use it to solve problems.
  • Be able to break a problem down into subproblems.

Understand the problem

The first step to solving a problem is understanding exactly what the problem is. If you don’t understand the problem, you won’t know when you’ve successfully solved it and may waste a lot of time on a wrong solution .

To gain clarity and understanding of the problem, write it down on paper, reword it in plain English until it makes sense to you, and draw diagrams if that helps. When you can explain the problem to someone else in plain English, you understand it.

Now that you know what you’re aiming to solve, don’t jump into coding just yet. It’s time to plan out how you’re going to solve it first. Some of the questions you should answer at this stage of the process:

  • Does your program have a user interface? What will it look like? What functionality will the interface have? Sketch this out on paper.
  • What inputs will your program have? Will the user enter data or will you get input from somewhere else?
  • What’s the desired output?
  • Given your inputs, what are the steps necessary to return the desired output?

The last question is where you will write out an algorithm to solve the problem. You can think of an algorithm as a recipe for solving a particular problem. It defines the steps that need to be taken by the computer to solve a problem in pseudocode.

Pseudocode is writing out the logic for your program in natural language instead of code. It helps you slow down and think through the steps your program will have to go through to solve the problem.

Here’s an example of what the pseudocode for a program that prints all numbers up to an inputted number might look like:

This is a basic program to demonstrate how pseudocode looks. There will be more examples of pseudocode included in the assignments.

Divide and conquer

From your planning, you should have identified some subproblems of the big problem you’re solving. Each of the steps in the algorithm we wrote out in the last section are subproblems. Pick the smallest or simplest one and start there with coding.

It’s important to remember that you might not know all the steps that you might need up front, so your algorithm may be incomplete -— this is fine. Getting started with and solving one of the subproblems you have identified in the planning stage often reveals the next subproblem you can work on. Or, if you already know the next subproblem, it’s often simpler with the first subproblem solved.

Many beginners try to solve the big problem in one go. Don’t do this . If the problem is sufficiently complex, you’ll get yourself tied in knots and make life a lot harder for yourself. Decomposing problems into smaller and easier to solve subproblems is a much better approach. Decomposition is the main way to deal with complexity, making problems easier and more approachable to solve and understand.

In short, break the big problem down and solve each of the smaller problems until you’ve solved the big problem.

Solving Fizz Buzz

To demonstrate this workflow in action, let’s solve a common programming exercise: Fizz Buzz, explained in this wiki article .

Understanding the problem

Write a program that takes a user’s input and prints the numbers from one to the number the user entered. However, for multiples of three print Fizz instead of the number and for the multiples of five print Buzz . For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print FizzBuzz .

This is the big picture problem we will be solving. But we can always make it clearer by rewording it.

Write a program that allows the user to enter a number, print each number between one and the number the user entered, but for numbers that divide by 3 without a remainder print Fizz instead. For numbers that divide by 5 without a remainder print Buzz and finally for numbers that divide by both 3 and 5 without a remainder print FizzBuzz .

Does your program have an interface? What will it look like? Our FizzBuzz solution will be a browser console program, so we don’t need an interface. The only user interaction will be allowing users to enter a number.

What inputs will your program have? Will the user enter data or will you get input from somewhere else? The user will enter a number from a prompt (popup box).

What’s the desired output? The desired output is a list of numbers from 1 to the number the user entered. But each number that is divisible by 3 will output Fizz , each number that is divisible by 5 will output Buzz and each number that is divisible by both 3 and 5 will output FizzBuzz .

Writing the pseudocode

What are the steps necessary to return the desired output? Here is an algorithm in pseudocode for this problem:

Dividing and conquering

As we can see from the algorithm we developed, the first subproblem we can solve is getting input from the user. So let’s start there and verify it works by printing the entered number.

With JavaScript, we’ll use the “prompt” method.

The above code should create a little popup box that asks the user for a number. The input we get back will be stored in our variable answer .

We wrapped the prompt call in a parseInt function so that a number is returned from the user’s input.

With that done, let’s move on to the next subproblem: “Loop from 1 to the entered number”. There are many ways to do this in JavaScript. One of the common ways - that you actually see in many other languages like Java, C++, and Ruby - is with the for loop :

If you haven’t seen this before and it looks strange, it’s actually straightforward. We declare a variable i and assign it 1: the initial value of the variable i in our loop. The second clause, i <= answer is our condition. We want to loop until i is greater than answer . The third clause, i++ , tells our loop to increment i by 1 every iteration. As a result, if the user inputs 10, this loop would print numbers 1 - 10 to the console.

Most of the time, programmers find themselves looping from 0. Due to the needs of our program, we’re starting from 1

With that working, let’s move on to the next problem: If the current number is divisible by 3, then print Fizz .

We are using the modulus operator ( % ) here to divide the current number by three. If you recall from a previous lesson, the modulus operator returns the remainder of a division. So if a remainder of 0 is returned from the division, it means the current number is divisible by 3.

After this change the program will now output this when you run it and the user inputs 10:

The program is starting to take shape. The final few subproblems should be easy to solve as the basic structure is in place and they are just different variations of the condition we’ve already got in place. Let’s tackle the next one: If the current number is divisible by 5 then print Buzz .

When you run the program now, you should see this output if the user inputs 10:

We have one more subproblem to solve to complete the program: If the current number is divisible by 3 and 5 then print FizzBuzz .

We’ve had to move the conditionals around a little to get it to work. The first condition now checks if i is divisible by 3 and 5 instead of checking if i is just divisible by 3. We’ve had to do this because if we kept it the way it was, it would run the first condition if (i % 3 === 0) , so that if i was divisible by 3, it would print Fizz and then move on to the next number in the iteration, even if i was divisible by 5 as well.

With the condition if (i % 3 === 0 && i % 5 === 0) coming first, we check that i is divisible by both 3 and 5 before moving on to check if it is divisible by 3 or 5 individually in the else if conditions.

The program is now complete! If you run it now you should get this output when the user inputs 20:

  • Read How to Think Like a Programmer - Lessons in Problem Solving by Richard Reis.
  • Watch How to Begin Thinking Like a Programmer by Coding Tech. It’s an hour long but packed full of information and definitely worth your time watching.
  • Read this Pseudocode: What It Is and How to Write It article from Built In.

Knowledge check

This section contains questions for you to check your understanding of this lesson on your own. If you’re having trouble answering a question, click it and review the material it links to.

  • What are the three stages in the problem solving process?
  • Why is it important to clearly understand the problem first?
  • What can you do to help get a clearer understanding of the problem?
  • What are some of the things you should do in the planning stage of the problem solving process?
  • What is an algorithm?
  • What is pseudocode?
  • What are the advantages of breaking a problem down and solving the smaller problems?

Additional resources

This section contains helpful links to other content. It isn’t required, so consider it supplemental.

  • Read the first chapter in Think Like a Programmer: An Introduction to Creative Problem Solving ( not free ). This book’s examples are in C++, but you will understand everything since the main idea of the book is to teach programmers to better solve problems. It’s an amazing book and worth every penny. It will make you a better programmer.
  • Watch this video on repetitive programming techniques .
  • Watch Jonathan Blow on solving hard problems where he gives sage advice on how to approach problem solving in software projects.

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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.

Encapsulation

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.

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CBSE Class 11 | Problem Solving Methodologies

Problem solving process, problem solving methodology(the solution for the problem).

  • Top Down Design : In this method, the original problem is divided into subparts. These subparts are further divided. The chain continues till we get the very fundamental subpart of the problem which can’t be further divided. Then we draw a solution for each of these fundamental parts.
  • Bottom Up Design : In this style of programming, an application is written by using the pre-existing primitives of programming language. These primitives are then amalgamated with more complicated features, till the application is written. This style is just the reverse of the top-down design style.
  • Sequence Statements Here, all the instructions are executed in a sequence, that is, one after the another, till the program is executed.
  • Selection Statements As it is self-clear from the name, in these type of statements the whole set of instructions is not executed. A selection has to be made. A selected number of instructions are executed based on some condition. If the condition holds true then some part of the instruction set is executed, otherwise, another part of the set is executed. Since this selection out of the instruction set has to be made, thus these type of instructions are called Selection Statements.
  • Iteration or Looping Statements As lucid by the name itself, here a particular set of instructions is being executed multiple times. This set of instructions keeps on executing in a loop until a particular condition gets terminated. These types of instructions are also called iteration statements. The three ways of executing a program explained above are also termed as ‘control structure’ since they determine and control the flow of execution in a set of statements.
  • Flow Chart : Flow charts are diagrammatic representation of the algorithm. It uses some symbols to illustrate the starting and ending of a program along with the flow of instructions involved in the program.
  • Problem Definition
  • Problem Design
  • Documentation of test perform
  • History of program development
  • User’s manual A user’s manual is used by a user to know about a program’s input, processing, and output data.
  • Detection and Elimination of undetected errors in the existing program.
  • Modification of current program to enhance its performance and adaptability.
  • Enhancement of user interface
  • Enriching the program with new capabilities.
  • Updation of the documentation.

Control Structure- Conditional control and looping (finite and infinite)

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Computer Basics  - Basic Troubleshooting Techniques

Computer basics  -, basic troubleshooting techniques, computer basics basic troubleshooting techniques.

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Computer Basics: Basic Troubleshooting Techniques

Lesson 19: basic troubleshooting techniques.

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Troubleshooting

Do you know what to do if your screen goes blank? What if you can't seem to close an application, or can't hear any sound from your speakers? Whenever you have a problem with your computer, don't panic! There are many basic troubleshooting techniques you can use to fix issues like this. In this lesson, we'll show you some simple things to try when troubleshooting, as well as how to solve common problems you may encounter.

General tips to keep in mind

There are many different things that could cause a problem with your computer. No matter what's causing the issue, troubleshooting will always be a process of trial and error —in some cases, you may need to use several different approaches before you can find a solution; other problems may be easy to fix. We recommend starting by using the following tips.

  • Write down your steps : Once you start troubleshooting, you may want to write down each step you take. This way, you'll be able to remember exactly what you've done and can avoid repeating the same mistakes. If you end up asking other people for help, it will be much easier if they know exactly what you've tried already.
  • Take notes about error messages : If your computer gives you an error message , be sure to write down as much information as possible. You may be able to use this information later to find out if other people are having the same error.

cables

  • Restart the computer : When all else fails, restarting the computer is a good thing to try. This can solve a lot of basic issues you may experience with your computer.

Using the process of elimination

If you're having an issue with your computer, you may be able to find out what's wrong using the process of elimination . This means you'll make a list of things that could be causing the problem and then test them out one by one to eliminate them. Once you've identified the source of your computer issue, it will be easier to find a solution.

Let's say you're trying to print out invitations for a birthday party, but the printer won't print. You have some ideas about what could be causing this, so you go through them one by one to see if you can eliminate any possible causes.

First, you check the printer to see that it's turned on and plugged in to the surge protector . It is, so that's not the issue. Next, you check to make sure the printer's ink cartridge still has ink and that there is paper loaded in the paper tray . Things look good in both cases, so you know the issue has nothing to do with ink or paper.

Now you want to make sure the printer and computer are communicating correctly . If you recently downloaded an update to your operating system , it might interfere with the printer. But you know there haven't been any recent updates and the printer was working yesterday, so you'll have to look elsewhere.

You check the printer's USB cord and find that it's not plugged in. You must have unplugged it accidentally when you plugged something else into the computer earlier. Once you plug in the USB cord, the printer starts working again. It looks like this printer issue is solved!

This is just one example of an issue you might encounter while using a computer. In the rest of this lesson, we'll talk about other common computer problems and some ways to solve them.

Simple solutions to common problems

Most of the time, problems can be fixed using simple troubleshooting techniques, like closing and reopening the program. It's important to try these simple solutions before resorting to more extreme measures. If the problem still isn't fixed, you can try other troubleshooting techniques.

Problem: Power button will not start computer

  • Solution 1 : If your computer does not start , begin by checking the power cord to confirm that it is plugged securely into the back of the computer case and the power outlet.
  • Solution 2 : If it is plugged into an outlet, make sure it is a working outlet . To check your outlet, you can plug in another electrical device , such as a lamp .

surge protector

  • Solution 4 : If you are using a laptop , the battery may not be charged. Plug the AC adapter into the wall, then try to turn on the laptop. If it still doesn't start up, you may need to wait a few minutes and try again.

Problem: An application is running slowly

  • Solution 1 : Close and reopen the application.

Checking for updates

Problem: An application is frozen

Sometimes an application may become stuck, or frozen . When this happens, you won't be able to close the window or click any buttons within the application.

task manager in Windows 10

  • Solution 2 : Restart the computer. If you are unable to force quit an application, restarting your computer will close all open apps.

Problem: All programs on the computer run slowly

virus scanner

  • Solution 2 : Your computer may be running out of hard drive space. Try deleting any files or programs you don't need.
  • Solution 3 : If you're using a PC , you can run Disk Defragmenter . To learn more about Disk Defragmenter , check out our lesson on Protecting Your Computer .

Problem: The computer is frozen

Sometimes your computer may become completely unresponsive, or frozen . When this happens, you won't be able to click anywhere on the screen, open or close applications, or access shut-down options.

restarting Windows Explorer in Windows 10

  • Solution 3 : Press and hold the Power button. The Power button is usually located on the front or side of the computer, typically indicated by the power symbol . Press and hold the Power button for 5 to 10 seconds to force the computer to shut down.
  • Solution 4 : If the computer still won't shut down, you can unplug the power cable from the electrical outlet. If you're using a laptop, you may be able to remove the battery to force the computer to turn off. Note : This solution should be your last resort after trying the other suggestions above.

Problem: The mouse or keyboard has stopped working

wired mouse or keyboard

  • Solution 2 : If you're using a wireless mouse or keyboard, make sure it's turned on and that its batteries are charged.

Problem: The sound isn't working

  • Solution 1 : Check the volume level. Click the audio button in the top-right or bottom-right corner of the screen to make sure the sound is turned on and that the volume is up.
  • Solution 2 : Check the audio player controls. Many audio and video players will have their own separate audio controls. Make sure the sound is turned on and that the volume is turned up in the player.
  • Solution 3 : Check the cables. Make sure external speakers are plugged in, turned on, and connected to the correct audio port or a USB port. If your computer has color-coded ports, the audio output port will usually be green .

headphones and speakers

Problem: The screen is blank

  • Solution 1 : The computer may be in Sleep mode. Click the mouse or press any key on the keyboard to wake it.
  • Solution 2 : Make sure the monitor is plugged in and turned on .
  • Solution 3 : Make sure the computer is plugged in and turned on .
  • Solution 4 : If you're using a desktop, make sure the monitor cable is properly connected to the computer tower and the monitor.

Solving more difficult problems

If you still haven't found a solution to your problem, you may need to ask someone else for help. As an easy starting point, we'd recommend searching the Web . It's possible that other users have had similar problems, and solutions to these problems are often posted online. Also, if you have a friend or family member who knows a lot about computers, they may be able to help you.

Google search of Windows 10

Keep in mind that most computer problems have simple solutions, although it may take some time to find them. For difficult problems, a more drastic solution may be required, like reformatting your hard drive or reinstalling your operating system. If you think you might need a solution like this, we recommend consulting a professional first. If you're not a computer expert, it's possible that attempting these solutions could make the situation worse.

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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

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Lesson 27 of 33 By Hemant Deshpande

An Ultimate Guide That Helps You to Develop and Improve Problem Solving in Programming

Table of Contents

Coding and Programming skills hold a significant and critical role in implementing and developing various technologies and software. They add more value to the future and development. These programming and coding skills are essential for every person to improve problem solving skills. So, we brought you this article to help you learn and know the importance of these skills in the future. 

Want a Top Software Development Job? Start Here!

Want a Top Software Development Job? Start Here!

Topics covered in this problem solving in programming article are:

  • What is Problem Solving in Programming? 
  • Problem Solving skills in Programming
  • How does it impact your career ?
  • Steps involved in Problem Solving
  • Steps to improve Problem Solving in programming

What is Problem Solving in Programming?

Computers are used to solve various problems in day-to-day life. Problem Solving is an essential skill that helps to solve problems in programming. There are specific steps to be carried out to solve problems in computer programming, and the success depends on how correctly and precisely we define a problem. This involves designing, identifying and implementing problems using certain steps to develop a computer.

When we know what exactly problem solving in programming is, let us learn how it impacts your career growth.

How Does It Impact Your Career?

Many companies look for candidates with excellent problem solving skills. These skills help people manage the work and make candidates put more effort into the work, which results in finding solutions for complex problems in unexpected situations. These skills also help to identify quick solutions when they arise and are identified. 

People with great problem solving skills also possess more thinking and analytical skills, which makes them much more successful and confident in their career and able to work in any kind of environment. 

The above section gives you an idea of how problem solving in programming impacts your career and growth. Now, let's understand what problem solving skills mean.

Problem Solving Skills in Programming

Solving a question that is related to computers is more complicated than finding the solutions for other questions. It requires excellent knowledge and much thinking power. Problem solving in programming skills is much needed for a person and holds a major advantage. For every question, there are specific steps to be followed to get a perfect solution. By using those steps, it is possible to find a solution quickly.

The above section is covered with an explanation of problem solving in programming skills. Now let's learn some steps involved in problem solving.

Steps Involved in Problem Solving

Before being ready to solve a problem, there are some steps and procedures to be followed to find the solution. Let's have a look at them in this problem solving in programming article.

Basically, they are divided into four categories:

  • Analysing the problem
  • Developing the algorithm
  • Testing and debugging

Analysing the Problem

Every problem has a perfect solution; before we are ready to solve a problem, we must look over the question and understand it. When we know the question, it is easy to find the solution for it. If we are not ready with what we have to solve, then we end up with the question and cannot find the answer as expected. By analysing it, we can figure out the outputs and inputs to be carried out. Thus, when we analyse and are ready with the list, it is easy and helps us find the solution easily. 

Developing the Algorithm

It is required to decide a solution before writing a program. The procedure of representing the solution  in a natural language called an algorithm. We must design, develop and decide the final approach after a number of trials and errors, before actually writing the final code on an algorithm before we write the code. It captures and refines all the aspects of the desired solution.

Once we finalise the algorithm, we must convert the decided algorithm into a code or program using a dedicated programming language that is understandable by the computer to find a desired solution. In this stage, a wide variety of programming languages are used to convert the algorithm into code. 

Testing and Debugging

The designed and developed program undergoes several rigorous tests based on various real-time parameters and the program undergoes various levels of simulations. It must meet the user's requirements, which have to respond with the required time. It should generate all expected outputs to all the possible inputs. The program should also undergo bug fixing and all possible exception handling. If it fails to show the possible results, it should be checked for logical errors.

Industries follow some testing methods like system testing, component testing and acceptance testing while developing complex applications. The errors identified while testing are debugged or rectified and tested again until all errors are removed from the program.

The steps mentioned above are involved in problem solving in programming. Now let's see some more detailed information about the steps to improve problem solving in programming.

Steps to Improve Problem Solving in Programming

Right mindset.

The way to approach problems is the key to improving the skills. To find a solution, a positive mindset helps to solve problems quickly. If you think something is impossible, then it is hard to achieve. When you feel free and focus with a positive attitude, even complex problems will have a perfect solution.

Making Right Decisions

When we need to solve a problem, we must be clear with the solution. The perfect solution helps to get success in a shorter period. Making the right decisions in the right situation helps to find the perfect solution quickly and efficiently. These skills also help to get more command over the subject.

Keeping Ideas on Track

Ideas always help much in improving the skills; they also help to gain more knowledge and more command over things. In problem solving situations, these ideas help much and help to develop more skills. Give opportunities for the mind and keep on noting the ideas.

Learning from Feedbacks

A crucial part of learning is from the feedback. Mistakes help you to gain more knowledge and have much growth. When you have a solution for a problem, go for the feedback from the experienced or the professionals. It helps you get success within a shorter period and enables you to find other solutions easily.

Asking Questions

Questions are an incredible part of life. While searching for solutions, there are a lot of questions that arise in our minds. Once you know the question correctly, then you are able to find answers quickly. In coding or programming, we must have a clear idea about the problem. Then, you can find the perfect solution for it. Raising questions can help to understand the problem.

These are a few reasons and tips to improve problem solving in programming skills. Now let's see some major benefits in this article.

  • Problem solving in programming skills helps to gain more knowledge over coding and programming, which is a major benefit.
  • These problem solving skills also help to develop more skills in a person and build a promising career.
  • These skills also help to find the solutions for critical and complex problems in a perfect way.
  • Learning and developing problem solving in programming helps in building a good foundation.
  • Most of the companies are looking for people with good problem solving skills, and these play an important role when it comes to job opportunities 
Don't miss out on the opportunity to become a Certified Professional with Simplilearn's Post Graduate Program in Full Stack Web Development . Enroll Today!

Problem solving in programming skills is important in this modern world; these skills build a great career and hold a great advantage. This article on problem solving in programming provides you with an idea of how it plays a massive role in the present world. In this problem solving in programming article, the skills and the ways to improve more command on problem solving in programming are mentioned and explained in a proper way.

If you are looking to advance in your career. Simplilearn provides training and certification courses on various programming languages - Python , Java , Javascript , and many more. Check out our Post Graduate Program in Full Stack Web Development course that will help you excel in your career.

If you have any questions for us on the problem solving in programming article. Do let us know in the comments section below; we have our experts answer it right away.

About the Author

Hemant Deshpande

Hemant Deshpande, PMP has more than 17 years of experience working for various global MNC's. He has more than 10 years of experience in managing large transformation programs for Fortune 500 clients across verticals such as Banking, Finance, Insurance, Healthcare, Telecom and others. During his career he has worked across the geographies - North America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific. Hemant is an internationally Certified Executive Coach (CCA/ICF Approved) working with corporate leaders. He also provides Management Consulting and Training services. He is passionate about writing and regularly blogs and writes content for top websites. His motto in life - Making a positive difference.

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35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

Problem solving workshop

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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

  • Tips for more effective problem-solving

Complete problem-solving methods

  • Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
  • Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

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 scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

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

In 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

Tips for more 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.

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!

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
  • Lightning Decision Jam
  • Problem Definition Process
  • Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
  • Open Space Technology

1. 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.

2. 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   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. World Cafe

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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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!

  • The Creativity Dice
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Problem Tree
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Agreement-Certainty Matrix
  • The Journalistic Six
  • LEGO Challenge
  • What, So What, Now What?
  • Journalists

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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

16. Speed Boat

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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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!

20. Journalists  

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 developing 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 narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

  • Improved Solutions
  • Four-Step Sketch
  • 15% Solutions
  • How-Now-Wow matrix
  • Impact Effort Matrix

21. Mindspin  

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.

22. 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.

23. 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

24. 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.

25. 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.

26. 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.

27. Dotmocracy

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.

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
  • Doodling Together
  • Show and Tell
  • Constellations
  • Draw a Tree

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. 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.

31. Constellations

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.

32. 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.

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
  • Who What When Matrix
  • Response Cards

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. 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.

34. 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.

35. 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.

Save time and effort discovering the right solutions

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 creative 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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what is problem solving in computer

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Status.net

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.

Brainstorming

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)

what is problem solving in computer

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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 ).

../_images/blackbox.png

Figure 1: Procedural Abstraction ¶

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Problem Solving Techniques in Computer Science

what is problem solving in computer

Problem-solving is the process of identifying a problem and finding the best solution for it. Problem-solving is a technique that can be developed by following a well-organized approach. Every day we encounter many problems and solve them.

Every problem is different. Some problems are very difficult and are needed more attention to recognize the solution.

A problem may be solved by multiple methods. One solution may be faster, cheaper, and more reliable than others. It is important to choose a suitable worthy solution.

Different strategies, techniques, and tools are used to solve a problem. Computers are used as a tool to solve complex problems by developing computer programs.

Computer programs contain different instructions for computers. A programmer writes instructions and the computer executes these instructions to solve a problem. A person can be a good programmer if he has the skill of solving problems.

Table of Contents

Problem-Solving Techniques.

There are three different types of problem-solving techniques.

A set of instructions given to a computer to solve a problem is called a program.

A computer works according to the given instructions in the program. Computer programs are written in programming languages. A person who develops a program is called a programmer.

The programmer develops programs to instruct the computer on how to process data into information. The programmer uses programming languages or tools to write programs.

 Advantages of Computer Program

Different advantages of computer programs are as follows:

  • A computer program can solve many problems by giving instructions to the computer.
  • A computer program can be used to perform a task again and again and fastly.
  • A program can process a large amount of data easily.
  • It can display the results in different styles.
  • The processing of a program is more efficient and less time-consuming.
  • Different types of programs are used in different fields to perform certain tasks.

   Algorithms & Pseudo Code

An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure to solve a problem. The process of solving

problem becomes simpler and easier with help of algorithm. It is better to write an algorithm

before writing the actual computer program.

Properties of Algorithm

Following are some properties of an algorithm:

  • The given problem should be broken down into simple and meaningful steps.
  • The steps should be numbered sequentially.
  • The steps should be descriptive and written in simple English. 

Algorithms are written in a language that is similar to simple English called pseudocode. There is no standard to write pseudo code. It is used to specify program logic in an English-like manner that is independent of any particular programming language.

Pseudocode simplifies program development by separating it into two main parts.

Logic Design

In this part, the logic of the program is designed. We specify different steps required to solve the problem and the sequence of these steps.

In this part, the algorithm is converted into a program. The steps of the algorithm are

translated into instructions of any programming language.

The use of pseudo-code allows the programmer to focus on the planning of the program. After the planning is final, it can be written in any programming language.

The following algorithm inputs two numbers calculate the sum and then displays the result on the screen.

4. Total A+B

5. Display Total

The following algorithm inputs the radius from the user and calculates the area of a circle.

Hint: Area 3.14* radius* radius)

2. Input radius in r

3. area = 3.14* r* r

4. Print area

Advantages of Algorithm

There are many advantages of an algorithm

Reduce complexity

Writing algorithm and program separately simplifies the overall task by dividing it into two simpler tasks. While writing the algorithm, we can focus on solving the problem instead of concentrating on a particular language.

Increased Flexibility

An algorithm is written so that the code may be written in any language. Using an algorithm, the program could be written in Visual Basic, Java or C++, etc.

Ease of Understanding

It is not necessary to understand a particular programming language to understand an algorithm. It is written in an English-like manner.

A flowchart is a combination of two words flow and chart. A chart consists of different symbols to display information about any program. Flow indicates the direction processing that takes place in the program.

Flowchart is a graphical representation of an algorithm. It is a way of visually presenting the flow of data, operations performed on data, and the sequence of these operations.

Flowchart is similar to the layout plan of a building. A designer draws the layout plan of the building before constructing it. Similarly, a programmer prefers to design the flowchart before writing the computer program. Flowchart is designed according to the defined rule.

Uses of Logic Flowchart

Flowchart is used for the following reasons

  • Flowchart is used to represent an algorithm in a simple graphical manner.
  • Flowchart is used to show the steps of an algorithm easily.
  • Flowchart is used to understand the flow of the program.
  • Flowchart is used to improve the logic for solving a problem.
  • Programs can be reviewed and debugged easily.
  • Chapter-Getting Started with C

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An Introduction to Algorithms Unlocking the Power of Problem Solving

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  1. What is Problem Solving? An Introduction

    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.

  2. The Problem Solving Cycle in Computer Science: A Complete Guide

    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

  3. Problem solving

    Problem solving is the process of achieving a goal by overcoming obstacles, a frequent part of most activities. Problems in need of solutions range from simple personal tasks (e.g. how to turn on an appliance) to complex issues in business and technical fields. ... Much of computer science and artificial intelligence involves designing ...

  4. PDF An Introduction to Computer Science and Problem Solving

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  6. Lecture 3: Problem Solving

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    This is, in effect, the brute force method of solving problems. Programmers are masters of a more subtle and effective way of doing this through a plan, do, check, act strategy. This involves, in ...

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    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.

  10. Problem Solving

    Problem solving is writing an original program that performs a particular set of tasks and meets all stated constraints. ... It defines the steps that need to be taken by the computer to solve a problem in pseudocode. Pseudocode. Pseudocode is writing out the logic for your program in natural language instead of code. It helps you slow down and ...

  11. Problem Solving

    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.

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    The several steps of this cycle are as follows : Step by step solution for a problem (Software Life Cycle) 1. Problem Definition/Specification: A computer program is basically a machine language solution to a real-life problem. Because programs are generally made to solve the pragmatic problems of the outside world.

  14. PDF Computer Programming Problem Solving Process

    Computer Programming Problem Solving Process. Creativity and problem solving play a critical role in computer programming. It is important to apply a structured process to identify problems and generate creative solutions before a program can be developed. This handout will explain the process of approaching a problem and

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  16. 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.

  17. How to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Programming

    Problem Solving is an essential skill that helps to solve problems in programming. There are specific steps to be carried out to solve problems in computer programming, and the success depends on how correctly and precisely we define a problem.

  18. Computer-Based Problem Solving Process

    Computer-Based Problem Solving Process is a work intended to offer a systematic treatment to the theory and practice of designing, implementing, and using software tools during the problem solving process. This method is obtained by enabling computer systems to be more Intuitive with human logic rather than machine logic. Instead of software ...

  19. 35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

    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.

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

    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.

  21. 1.3. What Is Computer Science?

    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 ...

  22. Problem Solving Techniques in Computer Science

    Problem-solving is the process of identifying a problem and finding the best solution for it. Problem-solving is a technique that can be developed by ... A set of instructions given to a computer to solve a problem is called a program. A computer works according to the given instructions in the program. Computer programs are written in ...

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    What Is Computer Programming? Computer programming is a high-tech field that's growing in popularity. Programmers work on code to find and solve issues.

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    Problem Representations. Ling Zhang, Bo Zhang, in Quotient Space Based Problem Solving, 2014. 1.1.5 AND/OR Graphical Representation. Some problem-solving processes may be represented more conveniently by the so-called AND/OR graph. In this representation, a complex original problem is divided into a conjunction of several subproblems.

  25. What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: Speech recognition Learning Planning Problem solving

  26. An Introduction to Algorithms Unlocking the Power of Problem Solving

    Computer-science document from Universitas Terbuka, 4 pages, An Introduction to Algorithms: Unlocking the Power of Problem Solving Introduction: Algorithms are the bedrock of modern computing, serving as the fundamental building blocks for solving a myriad of problems efficiently and effectively. Whether it's searc

  27. Computer Science Problem Solving Flashcards

    Problem solving Model. Process by which a solution can be found. Algorithm. A step-by-step procedure to follow for solving a problem, especially by a computer. restate. state (something) again or differently, especially in order to correct or to make more clear . equation. A formula a computer needs to solve a problem.