Problem Solving Process


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Outlines a simple approach to improving problem-solving, drawing on concepts such as reflection and double-loop learning. Slides used for a course on Enterprise Integration at Penn State, College of IST.
Citation: Purao, S. 2010. Problem-solving processes. Presentation to Senior-level class at College of IST, Penn State University.

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Problem Solving Process

  1. 1. IST 421 Advanced Enterprise Integration Problem-Solving Processes Sandeep Purao, Ph.D. Associate Professor of IST
  2. 2. The Problem <ul><li>Seeing problems makes me think, but does not tell me how to solve them. </li></ul><ul><li>Seeing solutions to these problems helps, but it still does not tell me how to solve the problems. </li></ul><ul><li>What can we do? </li></ul>
  3. 3. An Example <ul><li>Consider this problem : </li></ul><ul><li>3X + 2Y = 40 </li></ul><ul><li>3X + 4Y = 50 </li></ul><ul><li>Here is the solution : </li></ul><ul><li>X = 10 </li></ul><ul><li>Y = 5 </li></ul>But how did you get it?
  4. 4. Solution Process <ul><li>Let’s start with the fact that we have two equations: </li></ul><ul><li>3X + 2Y = 40 (I) and 3X + 4Y = 50 (II) </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s subtract equation (I) from equation (II) </li></ul><ul><li>This will result in a new equation: </li></ul><ul><li>0X + 2Y = 10 (III) </li></ul><ul><li>That tells me that Y = 5 </li></ul><ul><li>Substitute this in either of the original equations </li></ul><ul><li>3X + 10 = 40 </li></ul><ul><li>Subtracting 10 from each side yields </li></ul><ul><li>3X = 30, which in turn yields X = 10 </li></ul>Now I get it.
  5. 5. Examining the Process <ul><li>Issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What made you subtract (I) from (II)? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why not the other way around? Or even add? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is the more general lesson for me here? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What would happen if I have X, Y and Z? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Will I need to have three equations to start? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What should be the order? Start with eliminating one? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What may happen if we have very many unknowns? </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Reflecting on what we learned <ul><li>Problems we will encounter for organizational + technology concerns </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Are unlikely to have “final” “correct” outcomes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are unlikely to have good yardsticks for assessing the “correctness” of outcomes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Will require some creativity in demonstrating the “quality” of outcomes achieved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can, therefore, benefit from examining and reflecting on the “process” of achieving the solutions - as the solution are being developed </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Consider this Problem <ul><li>For your project, you need a project management software package. </li></ul><ul><li>Decide which project management software you will use. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do this with your neighbor. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have one person write steps you are going through. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Every so often, read the steps </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask yourselves whether you are doing this in the right manner. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adjust the steps as you answer your own question. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Some Issues <ul><li>Did we consider a large set of alternatives? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Design) Fixation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Did we critically examine the alternatives? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Familiarity Bias </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Did we capture the real reasons for choice? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Local Rationality </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Outcomes <ul><li>You should be able to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Work on problems, and simultaneously, reflect on your problem-solving process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Capture your problem-solving process externally so that you can examine it from a distance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Share the learning that you gain from this experience with others in the team by verbalizing </li></ul></ul>