Problem Solving

Romeu Gaspar's picture
Suggestions on how to structure, plan, analyze and present complex issues
Romeu Gaspar
Problem solving has been coined as a buzzword, perhaps undeservedly so: whether alone or in teams, for academic or professional purposes, most of us are frequently required to solve problems. Some of them are part of our daily routine and can be dealt with fairly quickly; others are less orthodox and require more thought. This article suggests 8 rules to deal with the latter type, based on our own experience. As part of this learning process we have broken these rules many times (and still do, on occasion), so you will find both good and bad examples illustrating these guidelines.
Exhibit 1 – The Situation-Complication-Question framework, a structuring and communication technique from the Minto Pyramid Principle
Exhibit 2 – An example of a visual representation of a problem solving approach
Exhibit 3 – An example of a problem solving outcome that combines different information sources and techniques
Exhibit 4 – An example of inference-observation confusion - Using only the last 15 years of temperature data to infer that global warming has stopped
Exhibit 5 – A graphical representation of Brook’s Law, originally created for software development but applied today in many fields
Exhibit 6 – An example of what happens when the analysis framework assumes more importance than the analysis itself (on the left), and how this can be solved (on the right)
Exhibit 7 – Example of how a visual representation can make the problem solving outcome easier to understand and remember