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General Problem Solving . The Four Steps of Problem Solving *. Orient Plan Execute Test These apply to any kind of problem, not just programming or process design

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the four steps of problem solving
The Four Steps of Problem Solving*
  • Orient
  • Plan
  • Execute
  • Test

These apply to any kind of problem, not just programming or process design

* [Carlson and Bloom, “The Cyclic Nature of Problem Solving: An Emergent Multi-Dimensional Problem Solving Framework”, Educational Studies in Mathematics, Vol. 58 Number 1, 2005]

a simple example crossing the street
A Simple Example: Crossing the Street
  • Orient: Gather information: amount of traffic, traffic lights, sirens? How does traffic work? Do cars stop for lights? Do bikes? Do pedestrians?
  • Plan: Consider various approaches. What if I jaywalk? What if I walk to the corner and cross?
  • Execute: Cross the street.
  • Check: Did I make it safely? Were there any unexpected hazards? Should I keep using this approach or modify it next time?
portland street
Portland Street
  • Anyone who has spent time in the US can cross this street safely.
  • But do note there is some construction going on, and there is a walk button (not visible in the photo) that you need to push to get a walk signal.
  • If you hear a siren, you need to know to stay on the sidewalk.
hochiminh city vietnam
Hochiminh City, Vietnam
  • Tourists have a very hard time crossing the street safely in HCM city. In fact there are special police to help you in the tourist areas!
  • As far as I can tell, motorbikes can go through most red lights whereas cars and trucks have to stop. It is ok to cross a street full of motorbikes if you walk slowly and steadily, but never step in front of a car, bus, or truck!
arc de triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
  • The Arc is in the middle of a huge busy traffic circle
  • You could get killed crossing the street over to the island where the Arc is… unless you happen to notice the underground tunnels for pedestrians!
oxford street
Oxford Street
  • At this intersection, there is a part of the traffic light cycle where all vehicle traffic stops so pedestrians can cross. The next photo shows a similar intersection in Japan.
shibuya tokyo
Shibuya, Tokyo

Picture credit Ben Waller,

and the moral is
And the moral is…
  • Follow the process! (Orient, Plan, Execute, Check)
  • Don’t just jump in and start trying something! Your previous experience may not exactly apply; the best solution may not be the first thing you think of.
  • Take the time to analyze the problem before you start constructing the solution. In the end you will have a better solution in less time.