Methods of problem solving

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This article’s lead section does not adequately summarize key points of its contents. This article has an unclear citation style. The references used may be made clearer with a different or consistent style of citation and footnoting. Problem solving consists of using generic or ad hoc methods in an orderly manner to find solutions to problems.

The term problem solving means slightly different things depending on the discipline. For instance, it is a mental process in psychology and a computerized process in computer science. There are two different types of problems, ill-defined and well-defined: different approaches are used for each. Problem solving in psychology refers to the process of finding solutions to problems encountered in life. Solutions to these problems are usually situation- or context-specific.

Problem solving has two major domains: mathematical problem solving and personal problem solving. Both are seen in terms of some difficulty or barrier that is encountered. Empirical research shows many different strategies and factors influence everyday problem solving. You can help by adding to it. Other problem solving tools are linear and nonlinear programming, queuing systems, and simulation.

Problem solving is used when products or processes fail, so corrective action can be taken to prevent further failures. It can also be applied to a product or process prior to an actual failure event—when a potential problem can be predicted and analyzed, and mitigation applied so the problem never occurs. Forensic engineering is an important technique of failure analysis that involves tracing product defects and flaws. Corrective action can then be taken to prevent further failures.

Reverse engineering attempts to discover the original problem-solving logic used in developing a product by taking it apart. In military science, problem solving is linked to the concept of “end-states”, the desired condition or situation that strategists wish to generate. The ability to solve problems is important at any military rank, but is highly critical at the command and control level, where it is strictly correlated to the deep understanding of qualitative and quantitative scenarios. Problem-solving strategies are the steps that one would use to find the problems that are in the way to getting to one’s own goal.

Some refer to this as the “problem-solving cycle”. Blanchard-Fields looks at problem solving from one of two facets. Proof: try to prove that the problem cannot be solved. Common barriers to problem solving are mental constructs that impede our ability to correctly solve problems. These barriers prevent people from solving problems in the most efficient manner possible. Confirmation bias is an unintentional bias caused by the collection and use of data in a way that favors a preconceived notion.