Commonly used heuristics, from George Pólya’s 1945 book, ‘How to Solve It’.
- If you are having difficulty understanding a problem, try drawing a picture.
- If you can’t find a solution, try assuming that you have a solution and seeing what you can derive from that (‘working backward’).
- If the problem is abstract, try examining a concrete example.
- Try solving a more general problem first (the ‘inventor’s paradox’: the more ambitious plan may have more chances of success).
Jonathan Bendor at Stanford University has developed a toolkit approach using some core heuristics. It is a very loose way of using a set of heuristics to solve a problem.
The idea is that problem solvers mix and match the cognitive shortcuts to discover their solution.
- Decomposition – start small and break the overarching problem into smaller pieces.
- Local Search – learn from experience, look for known, similar solutions and adapt them.
- Seriality – getting from A to B. Make one small change first, then move on to the next.
- Multiple Minds – many hands make light work. Don’t work on a problem alone, find out what others think, and use them as resources.
- Imitation – don’t reinvent the wheel, find out what other organizations are doing and copy them.
- Recombination – mix and match. Combine a number of different ideas to create a solution.
Using these heuristic elements is a not bound to being a linear or cyclical process;
They can be used in any order, and as many times for different purposes as needed.