Become a Better Problem-Solver

November 17, 2011 · 7 comments

Interestingly enough, I do not find many sources discussing problem-solving skills for software development. Most books are concerned with the mechanics of a language or framework and almost every software design book I read teaches a procedure rather than to pay attention to the clues in the problem itself. Certainly, universities do not teach these skills that we are just starting to recognize as highly valuable in our industry. As a result, there is a huge difference in the effectiveness of developers.

Software developers are among the smartest people in the world, no doubt. This is because we are constantly solving new problems. It takes an incredible attention to detail in order to build even the simplest of programs. But intelligence is not enough; we also need skill and strategy.

I’ve made it my professional mission in life to find effective techniques for building software and I’ve amassed a set of techniques that I’ve witnessed expert developers use to their great advantage. I have not only learned these skills but also how to teach them so they become top of mind and used. This is important because you probably already know some of the skills I teach in my classes but if you don’t consciously connect why those skills are important, they will probably not become habits for you and you won’t get the benefit of using them naturally.

Where to start? Start by believing that there are better ways to solve problems. If you don’t then you’ll have no motivation to try. Provide proof to your brain that others have these skills and that the skills they possess are learnable and worth learning. Then ask yourself different questions–questions you haven’t asked before. Focus initially on the reasons and benefits of your goals rather than the mechanistic of how to achieve them. This can help you see different perspectives that can open you up to finding better solutions.

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