Problem solving stages

Thinking better is about knowing how to think.

Knowing how to do anything involves knowing what situations might occur, and what to do in those situations.

Problem solving is one of the most common patterns in thinking. I believe that solving a problem involves a set of recurring stages, and each stage has a recurring set of thought patterns that help overcome that stage.

Here are, in my opinion, the general steps of solving any problem:

  1. Understanding the problem
  2. Conceive of a sequence of steps that will solve it – a plan
  3. Execute the plan

To understand the problem, make sure each word in its description is known, and then find all possible questions to ask about every explicit or implicit statement, and try to get answers to all those questions.

An understanding of the problem should yield a set of things that must come into place for it to be solved. They may be interdependent, and it may take several iterations, with subsequent ones building on previous ones. Regardless, it’s necessary to take the unstructured set of things that must come into place, and structure them into a linear sequence of actions that can be executed.

Once the sequence of actions is accepted, it must be executed. Execution is all about focus. For focus to be possible, the object of focus must always be explicitly known, otherwise minds resort to disarray. If a part of the plan does not have an immediate method of execution, it must be broken down into smaller action items that can be immediately carried out.

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