A Pretty Good Problem Solver

Posted by bob on November 8, 2016

The other day I was asked to explain the qualities that make an engineer a Pretty Good Problem Solver (and conversely, what might allow a different engineer to be called a Pretty Bad Problem Solver).

On the Home Page of PrettyGoodProblemSolver.com, I explain why you don’t have to be the best, and don’t have to be a perfect Problem Solver.

Here is my list.  It is probably not complete, but I think it is a very good start.

A Pretty Good Problem Solver:

  • Writes down information and publishes that information to help other folks understand.
  • Uses text, diagrams, drawings, photos, videos, and other tools to improve their communication.
  • Follows a consistent method to identify and fix problems.  One method is to ask and answer the five questions listed below:
    • What do you know?
    • What are the rules?
    • What don’t you know?
    • How are you going to find out the stuff you don’t know?
    • How will you know when you are done solving the problem?
  • Knows that he/she can use many methods to solve problems.
  • Refuses to jump-to-cause or leap-to-conclusions.
  • Is not afraid to make mistakes.
  • Is not afraid to share or publish their mistakes.
  • Is persistent.
  • Challenges assumptions.
  • Has a reasonable ability to understand and think through basic theory of the needed subjects.
  • Embraces high standards of workmanship and appreciates high standards for quality.
  • Has extremely high standards for personal ethics and will not knowingly misrepresent problems or solutions.
  • Understands that all projects face limits of people, time, money, and results.
  • Helps other people learn to become good problem solvers.

That is a challenging list.  At some time or another, we all will fail to meet one or more of these goals. 

What qualities would you add to this list? 

Would you declare yourself to be a Pretty Good Problem Solver

As for me, I’m still working on it.