Shannon's Six Steps to Problem Solving

I’ve written a couple of posts about Rob Goodman’s and Jimmy Soni’s book on Claude Shannon [1, 2]. If you haven’t read the articles that those posts link to, I urge you to do so. Shannon was a fascinating man and a problem solving machine.

In a Business Insider article, Goodman and Soni report on a talk about Shannon’s 6 steps to problem solving that he gave to his Bell Labs colleagues. Most of us aren’t Shannon-level geniuses but his six steps are relevant to the work we do. Briefly, those steps are

  1. Simplify.
  2. Learn and think about similar problems and solutions.
  3. Approach a problem from different angles.
  4. Break the problem into small parts.
  5. Solve the problem backwards: from solution to problem.
  6. Extend your solution as far as it will go.

That list probably seems facile but the article expands on each step and offers examples. It’s definitely worth your time to take a look at the article. You may find some of the strategies useful in your own problem solving.

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