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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 Picture credit Ben Waller, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.