Avoid some common stumbling blocks when solving both simple and complex problems.
A portion of what you know about problem-solving is probably wrong. More importantly, this so-called knowledge can lead to slow and ineffective resolutions. Along the path of problem-solving, certain myths seem to appear again and again, which act as bottlenecks and sometimes lead teams to abandon sound fundamentals.
This article pulls from our decades of experience in industry and academia to describe indications and warnings that will alert you to these myths and get you back on the path to sound fundamentals. Identifying these myths will be helpful for young engineers just starting their careers and mid-career professionals looking for new opportunities.
Several methodologies exist for solving problems, and Figure 1 provides one version of the classic formula (1). Other similar methods include the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) method, the well-known scientific method, or John Boyd’s Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop (2).
This article highlights 11 myths within the framework of the problem-solving steps presented in Figure 1. Each myth begins with a story from the authors’ experience, describes the reality, and closes with a key point to remember. Many excellent resources are available for learning more about problem-solving methodologies, a few of which are listed in the Literature Cited at the end of this article.
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