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Problem Solving Solutions

Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, pp. 9-11

Experimental psychologists have long been studying the thinking process in solving problems. Here are some approaches you can use to improve your score as a problem solver:

1. Consider the elements of the problem several times, until a pattern emerges that encompasses them all. This helps you get the total picture before you become lost in details.

2. Don't make a hasty judgment. Avoid succumbing to the first interpretation that comes to mind.

3. Try rearranging the elements of your problem. This may help uncover a familiar pattern previously masked by an unfamiliar arrangement.

4. Attempt a different approach. A proficient problem solver has learned not to persist in one approach if it's obviously not working. He or she will jump from one approach to another until a solution is found.

5. Take "time out" when you're stuck. This will permit you to get away from the problem and perhaps to be able to come back to it with a new perspective.

6. Discuss your problem with others. This will cause you to consider aspects you might otherwise ignore. A listener can serve as a useful feedback source to reveal inconsistency in your reasoning if it exists.

You cannot force a solution to a problem to come to mind. But you can keep your mind open so you can recognize possible paths to solutions when they present themselves.