Solving Problems Isn’t Hard

Solving problems isn’t hard. Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, then for most problems you can see a few ways to get there, so it just comes down to choosing the best course of action and following through.

Problem definition, on the other hand, can be damn hard.

When you’re facing some problem and it’s driving you crazy, sometimes you’re best to stop and wonder whether you’ve really defined the problem accurately. What are you trying to solve? What is the original problem? Why is it such a problem? How else could you frame it? What description would make it more tractable?

If you can get the problem definition right, your chances of finding an optimal solution are greatly improved. Don’t keep soldiering on down the wrong path, refusing to acknowledge that failure is also an option.

2 Comments

  • Solving most problems isn’t hard. Quantising gravitation or disproving P=NP or ending poverty or curing cancer are somewhat non-trivial though 😉

    Going back to a previous comment in your other weblog, I think that much of the value of education is giving people different ways to view problems. This is especially true of mathematics, physics or computer science education in my experience. Especially in physics, problems that look impossibly hard when viewed in one way can become totally obvious when viewed in another way.

  • LOL. I doubt you’d be surprised to hear, Rich, that the initial draft of this post had examples of problems that really ARE hard to solve. I took them out just because I thought I was crufting up the post a bit 😉

    I would say though, that even those difficult to solves might be much easier if framed differently.