How to improve your problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills are extremely important in today life – the life 3.0 where the Internet went viral and the concept of machine learning as well as artificial intelligence are popular from small businesses to big businesses. In the future, we don’t teach our children, our students think like a machine but think creatively. The longer I do volunteer work and work in the tech industry, the more I see how important problem-solving skills are. Therefore, this post will show you how to improve your problem-solving skills.

When I was in high school, my maths teachers gave me a lot of exercises and told me to try to solve it in a short amount of time. When I was a freshman at the university, I had to solve many business cases and coding challenges within 13 weeks. And now when I’m a sophomore and working in the tech industry, I’m not only solving my daily challenges but also helping other people to solve their problems.

The short story above is telling you what problem-solving skills are. It is how you deal with your daily problems. Problems can be everything around you – school’s exercises, business cases, coding challenges, so forth – which stimulates your brain being active to find solutions. The more time you spend on solving problems or facing challenges, the better your problem-solving skills are. Since I’m currently working in the tech industry, I’m getting familiar with the process of solving problems. A few steps below are parts of the process which I use to solve problems, especially coding challenges.

1. Understand the problem:

First and foremost, you need to understand the problem which you’re trying to solve. Without this step, you may not go through other steps. There are 2 ways which help you practice on understanding the problem – read and experience. “Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein said. However, knowledge empowers imagination. The more you read and experience, the more knowledge you have and the more familiar you are with the problem which you’re trying to solve.

2. Break the problem:

After understanding the problem, you need to break the problem down to an extremely small one even the problem is small or big. Don’t try to solve the problem, go to achieve every small piece of it. I mostly can’t solve the problem immediately if it is the first time we saw it. One of the most common things I tend to do when I’m facing the problem which I have never met before is I read the problem and try to break it down to very little pieces. This approach helps me save lots of time to think of the big image. We have a vision and we conquer every little step to meet our vision. That is how we solve a 1000-pieces puzzle.

3. Questioning and Searching:

After breaking the problem down into small pieces,  you need to start questioning and searching answers for your questions to fulfill your curiosity. In the age of the Internet, the ‘search’ word tends to be replaced by the ‘google’ word since Google is one of the biggest and most well-known search engines companies around the world. However, the important thing that helps you solve problems is your curiosity. Without it, you may not have a question to search for. Hence, you need to be always curious about every piece of the problem which you’re trying to solve. Importantly, don’t stop being educated. A good question can be about things in other fields/topics but it must be related to what you’re trying to solve. That’s how the concept of neural networks/deep learning was invented in the Computer Science field in 1958.

4. Experimenting:

Because the Internet went viral, you will find many solutions/answers for the problem on the web problems. As a result, you need to try/experiment and tweak those solutions to find the optimal solution for the problem. Knowledge is nothing without trying or experimenting. Sometimes, your knowledge will be wrong or out of date, so you need to experiment it and look at the result. Importantly, don’t be afraid or disappointed when your experiment doesn’t work. This is because it tells you something new that helps you know what to do next. Instead of being disappointed, you should start asking ‘WHY?’ and try again with another solution. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison said

These are a few steps that I tend to use for solving problems either in work or in studying. Hopefully, you learn something new from this post.

Thank you for reading.

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