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26 Approaches to Problem Solving

 , April 10, 2023
Problem solving approaches are ways of clearing issues, recovering from failure, treating risk and taking steps towards goals. Problem solving is a well understood domain with loads of approaches that have been established by people who have solved many a problem. These include methods of understanding the problem itself and developing and comparing solutions. The following are common problem solving approaches.
First Principles
Working from what you know or hold to be true.
Keep it Simple
Avoiding overthinking to choose a reasonable option quickly.
Design Thinking
Designing problems out.
A practical fix that’s temporary and cheap.
Working Backwards
Starting with goals and determining how to achieve them.
Pareto Analysis
Finding the 20% of things that will solve 80% of your problem.
Corrective Action
Fixing what’s broken.
Good Failure
Looking for value in failure.
Quickly addressing symptoms of a problem with a temporary process.
Root Cause Analysis
Determining the root cause of a problem to permanently fix it.
Data Analysis
Jumping into the data to find explanations and ways out of a problem.
Trial and Error
Trying things to see if they work.
Fail Well
Designing tests to fail quickly, cheaply and safely.
SWOT Analysis
Listing out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Taking steps to determine the cause of a problem.
Problem Statement
Clearly defining the problem and redefining the problem as required.
5 Whys
Asking why five times in succession to dig deeper into a problem.
Working Hypothesis
Developing possible explanations and testing them out.
Brainstorming possible solutions without validation.
Reverse Brainstorming
Listing what could go wrong with potential solutions.
Listing pros and cons of different solutions.
Challenging Assumptions
Challenging what people, including yourself, assume to be true.
Preserving Ambiguity
Not assuming things too early in the problem solving process or jumping to the first solution that presents itself.
No Nothing Strategy
The possibility that doing nothing is your best option.
Dealing with the world as it really exists to accept imperfect solutions that are achievable.
Sanity Check
Asking yourself – does this actually make any sense whatsoever?

Problem Solving

This is the complete list of articles we have written about problem solving.
A/B Testing
Abductive Reasoning
Analysis Paralysis
Accidental Complexity
Big Picture
Cause And Effect
Backward Induction
Critical Thinking
Design Thinking
First Principles
Five Whys
Challenging Assumptions
Formal Logic
Collective Intelligence
Four Causes
Common Sense
Game Theory
Conceptual Framework
Counterfactual Thinking
Deductive Reasoning
Essential Complexity
Known Unknowns
Excluded Middle
Failure Of Imagination
Magical Thinking
Feedback Loop
Pareto Analysis
Peer Review
Problem Statements
Qualitative Analysis
Fuzzy Logic
Real Problems
Root Cause
Inductive Reasoning
Sanity Check
Informal Logic
Systems Thinking
Thought Experiment
Working Backwards
Working Hypothesis
Path Of Least Resistance
Preserving Ambiguity
Problem Statement
Propositional Logic
Reverse Brainstorming
Root Cause Analysis
Test And Learn
More Than One Way
Unintended Consequences
More ...
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