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Problem Solving

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  1. Problem Solving Chapter 14

  2. Introduction • Engineers need to be good at solving problems and making things • Road to solutions just as important as solution itself • All students need problem-solving skills for technological 21st century, engineers or not http://members.telering.at/pat/einstein.htm

  3. Analytic Only one correct answer exists “What’s in your toolbox” Critical for decisions that may put the public at risk Creative There is no single correct answer “How you handle your tools” Ability to see how a product could malfunction or be misapplied Analytic and Creative Problem Solving

  4. List of Possible “Tools” for Solving Simple Problems • Look for a pattern • Construct a table • Consider possibilities systematically • Act it out • Make a model • Make a figure, graph, or drawing • Work backwards • Select appropriate notation • Restate problem in own words

  5. List of Possible “Tools” for Solving Simple Problems • Identify necessary, desired and given information • Write an open-ended sentence • Identify a sub-goal • First solve a simpler problem • Change your point of view • Check for hidden assumptions • Use a resource • Generalize

  6. List of Possible “Tools” for Solving Simple Problems • Check the solution; validate it • Find another way to solve the problem • Find another solution • Study the solution process • Discuss limitations • Get a bigger hammer • Sleep on it • Brainstorm • Involve others

  7. Many Strategies • Most people rely on two - three strategies • Get stuck when those do not work • Developing additional tools or methods will allow you to tackle problems effectively http://web.mit.edu/tetazoo/www/img/calvin/

  8. Scientific Method Define the problem Gather the facts Develop a hypothesis Perform a test Evaluate the results Analytic Method Define problem, make problem statement Diagram and describe Apply theory and equations Simplify assumptions Solve necessary problems Verify accuracy to required level Analytic Problem Solving Methods

  9. Step 1: Problem Statement • Restate problem to be solved in your own words • Engineering challenges are large and complex • Critical to understand what you need to solve

  10. Step 2: Description • Describe the problem and list all that is known • Formally writing down info helps sort what is needed and what is required • Diagrams or sketches aid in understanding problem

  11. Step 3: Theory • State explicitly the theory or equations needed • Starting with full equations and simplifying reduces the possibility of overlooking important factors

  12. Step 4: Simplifying Assumptions • Assists in solving a problem in a timely and cost-effective manner • Record assumptions and how they simplify the problem • Conservative Assumptions • Introduces errors on safe side • Need to develop ability to answer: • “What problem am I solving?” • “How do I get the solution I need most efficiently?”

  13. Step 5: Problem Solution • Can be done by hand or with computers • Document what is done when arriving to solutions with computers • Allows for finding errors quickly • Shows others what was done

  14. Step 6: Accuracy Verification NIST Helps Verify Accuracy of the World’s Best Rulers for Measuring Time and Frequency • Engineers responsible for verifying accuracy of their own solutions • Be Sure of Standards!! http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/gallery/bestrulers.htm

  15. Methods of Verification • Estimate the answer • Simplify problem and solve • Are answers consistent? • Compare with similar solutions • Compare to previous work • Ask a more experienced engineer to review the results • Compare to published literature on problem

  16. Methods of Verification • Ask yourself if the results makes sense • Compare to your own experience • Repeat the calculation • Run a computer simulation or model • Redo the calculation backwards

  17. Estimation • Provides answers to problems quickly and can verify complicated analyses • Experienced engineers can estimate close to actual answer before analysis • Have confidence in your results by developing tools to verify accuracy

  18. Creative Problem Solving • Dividing the process into steps allows you to break a large, complex problem into simpler problems where your various skills can be used • 5 Questions for Creative Problem Solving • What is wrong? • What do we know? • What is the real problem? • What is the best solution? • How do we implement the solution?

  19. Divergence and Convergence • At each phase there is a divergent and convergent part of the process • Divergent Process • Start at one point and reach for as many ideas as possible • Quantity important • Identifying possibilities is the goal • Convergent Process • Analytical and evaluative tools used to narrow possibilities to one most likely to yield an answer • Quality is most important • Find best possibility to move the process to next phase

  20. What is Wrong? • Identify an issue • Can be stated or determined on your own • May involve • Optimizing a process • Improving customer satisfaction • Addressing reliability issues

  21. What do we know? • Gathering all facts and information related to problem identified • Do not evaluate whether the data are central to the problem

  22. What is the the Real Problem? • Often skipped, but critical to effective solutions • Answers “Why” • Create a list of potential causes • Evaluate each to its validity • Rank each in order of impact http://www.rootsweb.com/~kscomanc/jordan.html

  23. What is the Best Solution? • Potential solutions need to be generated • Wise to confer with experienced experts about problem’s solution • Go to more than 1 source • Most productive after list of causes generated http://www.nurp.noaa.gov/Spotlight%20Articles/gashydrates.html

  24. Implementing the Solution • Appropriate additional problems must be selected, done, and completed • Divergent Phase • Brainstorming • Convergent Phase • Selection of implementation plan

  25. Evaluating the Solution • Problem solving, just like design, is a cyclic process • Obtain a neutral view from someone not involved with formulation or solution process • Allows you to learn from the process and the solution • Reflection process

  26. Personal Problem-Solving Styles • Isaken and Treffinger Six Linear Steps • Dr. Min Basadur’s Simplex Model • Basadur Simplex Creative Problem-Solving Profile

  27. Isaken and Treffinger Six Linear Steps • Mess Finding • Data Finding • Problem Finding • Idea Finding • Solution Finding • Acceptance Finding

  28. Dr. Min Basadur’s Simplex • Problem finding • Fact finding • Problem defining • Idea finding • Evaluating and selecting • Action planning • Gaining acceptance • Taking action

  29. Basadur Simplex Creative Problem-Solving Profile • Four styles, each correlating with 2 of the 8 of his Simplex model • Grouped into Quadrants • Q1 - Generator • Q2 - Conceptualizer • Q3 - Optimizer • Q4 - Implementor

  30. Generating • Getting the problem-solving process rolling • Problem & fact finding • Direct Experience • Questioning • Imagining Possibilities • Sensing Problems and Opportunities • Viewing from different perspectives • Focus on creating options rather than evaluating

  31. Conceptualizing • Gaining understanding by abstract thinking • Keeps innovation process going • To them, a theory must be logically sound and precise • Problem and idea finding

  32. Optimizing • Moves innovation process further • Converts abstract thinking into practical solutions and plans • Create optimal solutions to a few well-defined problems or issues • Idea evaluation, selection and action planning

  33. Implementing • Completes the innovation process • Learning by direct experience • Prefer situations where they must get things to work • Gaining acceptance and implementing

  34. Your Creative Problem-Solving Style • Reflects your preferences for each of the quadrants • Teams require strength in all four quadrants to succeed in creative problem-solving • Skills in all four quadrants are equally valuable

  35. Brainstorming Strategies • Goal of brainstorming is to stimulate your mind to trigger concepts or ideas that normal problem solving might miss • Let your mind wander and write down any ideas that come into your head

  36. Alex Osborn’s List of Stimulating Words • Adapt • Put to other uses • Modify • Magnify • Minify • Substitute • Rearrange • Reverse • Combine

  37. Bob Eberle’s Modified Osborn List (SCAMPER) • Substitute? • Combine? • Adapt? • Modify? Minify? Magnify? • Put to other uses? • Eliminate? • Reverse? Rearrange?

  38. Individual Brainstorming • Advantage of privacy • Write down any ideas that come into your head • Get everything down on paper in thumbnail sketches or drawings that capture the thinking

  39. Group Brainstorming • Same goal as Individual Brainstorming • Generate as many potential solutions as possible without judging any of them • Advantages • Additional people look at problem differently and bring fresh perspectives • Others get involved in the process early

  40. Pick a facilitator Define the problem Select a small group Explain the process Record ideas Involve everyone No evaluating Eliminate duplicates Pick three Guidelines in Using Group Brainstorming

  41. Pick a Facilitator • Record ideas • Keeps team focused • Makes sure the ground rules of brainstorming are followed by everyone

  42. Define the Problem • All participants understand the problem • Definition discussion occurs BEFORE brainstorming begins • Avoid distractions • Bring process to a halt

  43. Select a Small Group • Manageable size • Limited to three people • Break larger groups into subsections and reconvene with separate ideas

  44. Explain the Process • Provide the details of the process group will follow • Participants feel comfort knowing what they are getting into

  45. Record Ideas • Visibly record all ideas for group to see • Semi-circle around recorder • Multiple senses stimulate more ideas • Record ALL ideas • Often the best ideas come from a trigger of a silly idea

  46. Involve Everyone • Start with one idea from facilitator or another volunteer and write down • Easier to start with something on page • Go around group quickly allowing each person to submit one idea • If a person draws a blank, pass and come back • Power lies in taking advantage of everyone’s creative minds

  47. No Evaluating • Telling someone their idea is subpar will result in less ideas spoken from that individual and the group • Wacky ideas may trigger the final solution • Participants need to feel at ease when brainstorming • Avoiding negative comments and other subtle signs • Saying “good idea” to one and not the other

  48. Eliminate Duplicates • Examine list of all ideas • Eliminate repeated ideas

  49. Pick Three • Have members evaluate each suggestion by selecting top three choices • Mark each choice • Do not number • Groups time is optimized and no one feels like their ideas were “Number 4”