Post 439 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


Decision making involves some degree of problem solving. Alternatively it can be said that problem solving itself is a decision making process. In decision making some intuitive and alogical processes are operative, but problem solving occurs in a more realistic situation. Problem solving can be defined as an exercise of observing situations, vis a vis change causing elements.

Fishing for termites with a tube

To solve a problem, it is necessary to separate it, as a unique entity or event. The issue is seen by severing its connections and dependencies with other entities and happenings. To make such a dissection, one has to define the level and intensity of various connections. This can be done by raising questions.


  • What is the problem?
  • Is the problem due to (external) multiple opinions or ideas?
  • Is the problem due to possible subjective assumptions?
  • Is the problem due to doubtful evidence?
  • Is the problem related implications and consequences of its outcome (decision)?

Paul Drake (William Hopper) and Della Street (Barbara Hale), with cop Frank Sully

We have read Sherlock Homes, Agatha Christie, Perry Mason and other characters raising-solving problems. Some problems are stated at the start, the book discovers ‘How the issue occurred’, and only in the last chapter or page one finds ‘Who caused the problem and How?’ In another scenario, one is first told ‘How and, Who causes the problem’, but one find later, ‘Why the happening was circumstantially caused?’ In still another setup, one is shown the event and the circumstances Which caused it. Here one is led to believe some false truth, or several conflicting possibilities. The author wants you to get involved in the process of investigations. The truth (at least in fiction) always is a surprise.

Robot learning Step climbing

Assignments are simplest of problems as these are enforced exercises. There is a party which assigns the work and there is another, who undertakes the task. It is like a contract, where in goals or tasks are neatly defined, resources allocated, and delivery standards specified. Assignments deal with known things, but involve application of skill and management techniques. Students, employees (clerical) and jobbers (workers) are assigned such problems. It may lack a creative effort but productivity and sincerity are important factors.

Random Learning

Difficulties occur for two reasons, either, we do not know, How to manage a situation, or feel that we lack the resources. Difficulties are subjective or objective. In the first case, the problem lies within the person. The person has the capacity, but is unable to accomplish a task. In the second case, the problem lies outside the person. A person may not have the talent, know how, motivation, resources etc. Difficulties, if subjective in nature, require training, exposure, motivation, etc. whereas objective ones need other physical inputs.

Archimedes Bath

Mystery is an unexplained deviation from what is expected. Our efforts are in finding out what has caused the deviation. But for a mystery to happen it is necessary to understand as to what is a deviation (size, scale, measure, range etc.) and what forms a standard. A deviation is not necessarily a bad or foul thing, it may be an advantage or even a gain. Mysterious problems get tackled as soon as deviation causing elements are identified.

And Then There Were None is a 1945 film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s best-selling mystery novel

Opportunities self presumed or situational offerings. A person or group defines a condition as the problem or a larger environment (social, political, academic) poses a specific situation worthy of a rethink. The specific situation is looked upon as consisting of opportunities. Evaluation of opportunities in terms of the potential benefit or loss leads to solution of a problem. Opportunities are time related, and so need to be perceived early.

Star Burr Puzzle

Puzzle is a situation where one knows a correct solution exists, but sufficient efforts are necessary to discover it. Puzzles are of Three types: Soluble, currently insoluble and ever insoluble. Soluble puzzles can be tackled with current knowledge. Currently insoluble puzzles will be hopefully solved, when resources and information are adequately available. Puzzles, however, remain insoluble, when certain important sections are irretrievably lost. Puzzles have such inbuilt solutions that in real sense, there are no need to solve any thing, but locate the solution and identify the way to reach it. Puzzles are solved as soon as the end itself, or the means to the end are in sight.

Cards Gaming

Dilemmas offer multiple choices, each of which seems equally fitting. Dilemmas remain in-force only for a particular time span, situation or value judgment. Dilemmas, if handled by a different person, attended at another time, or dealt in another situation, may not be a problem at all. Dilemmas pose as twin offering, of which only one need be appropriate. So if the problem is probed further and deeper and separated from its dependencies one of the solutions is likely to be just slightly more superior or less inferior.



The problems in life relate to what one may want to gain or possess, and forget or dispose something. Situations are known, but need some support to make it better managed. The support may be different attitude, and additional knowledge, resources or time. Situations seem to strange because one needs to realize that a problem does exist.



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