Problem Solving

If you have a lot of problems to solve should you start with solving the easiest ones first and then work on harder ones until you get to the hardest problem, or should you start with the hardest problem and work down the last until you get to the easiest problem?
I have always found it best to start with the easiest and work up until I reach the hardest. My reasoning, which may be flawed, is that it might prove impossible to solve the hardest problem so if I start with that I may never solve the easiest problem. I also think that leaving easy to solve problems unsolved may well leave them to fester into really difficult problems to solve.

However, in order to adopt my methodology in problem solving a series of problems, you have to decide which problems are the hardest and which are the easiest. Having made that decision you must then start on the easiest problem making sure that your solution is a genuine solution and not one which creates new unforeseen problems. Solving easier problems often creates circumstances in which it is easier to solve harder problems, because problems are interlinked in complicated ways and taking out a single problem will often make it easier to solve harder related problems.

I think that what I have written applies to all problems, whether of international relations, wars, human relations or even human interaction with society and the environment.

Shami Chakrabarti told an audience at a talk at Manchester University to commemorate Christabel Pankhurst, the University’s first female law graduate, that gender based discrimination is the most serious human rights “issue” in the world today. Personally, I would have put gender discrimination (by which I assume she means treating persons of one sex unfavourably and not equally simply because of their gender) and somewhat down the list of serious human rights problems. It probably ranks in the middle of the list. It is an important problem, but far less important than the right to freedom, life, liberty and a fair trial.

Exaggerating the effect of a problem does not help in solving it. If we concentrate our resources to solving the problem of gender discrimination we lose the opportunity to solve easier problems which when solved will make it easier to solve the harder problems.

2 Responses

  1. A man, or woman, or combination or lack thereof, whose only tool is a hammer sees every job as being in need of a nail.

    • Nicely put; also if you are a physician you prescribe drugs as the solution. If you are surgeon you use surgery as the best solution and if you are a therapist you see therapy as the best solution.

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