Problem Solving: Some Selected Pearls of Wisdom

Posted on January 15, 2013


Selection by  Sanjay Goel,


Problems solving is the most valued  trait for all software developer, and probably for all profesionals.  Here is a collection of  some insightful  thoughts about problem solving by some great thinkers in different fields – philosophy, science, literature, educatioon, politics, architecture, films,  business, etc.

Recently, we had a very engaging discussion on these quotations in my first two classes  of a new elective course ‘Problem Solving and Research Methodology.’   Different students identified with different quotations as transformational insights for them.

Problem is a situation for which there isn’t an evident solution.– Pérez et al.

  1. Leaders are problem solvers by talent and temperament, and by choice.– Harlan Cleveland
  2. Creating something is all about problem solving.–  Philip Seymour Hoffman
  3. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were. – John F. Kennedy
  4. We only think when we are confronted with problems. – John Dewey
  5. No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking. – Voltaire
  6. The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem. — Theodore Rubin
  7. The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions. — Peter Drucker
  8. If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.—Abraham Maslow
  9. The biggest problem in the world could have been solved when it was small. – Witter Bynner
  10. Erroneous assumptions can be disastrous. — Peter Drucker
  11. Drowning problems in an ocean of information is not the same as solving them. – Ray E. Brown
  12. The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them –Einstein
  13. It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer. –Einstein
  14. If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.― Einstein
  15. The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.― Einstein
  16. Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds. – Norman Vincent Peale
  17. Few can really understand the problem, the answer will come out of it, because the answer is not separate from the problem.–Krishnamurti
  18. The only difference between a problem and a solution is that people understand the solution.  – Dorothea Brande
  19. When a problem comes along, study it until you are completely knowledgeable. Then find that weak spot, break the problem apart, and the rest will be easy. – Norman Vincent Peale
  20. A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved. – Dorothea Brande
  21. To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask? – Jim Rohn
  22. If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems. – Edward Hodnett
  23. No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.  – J. P. Morgan
  24. When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” – R. Buckminster Fuller
  25. When the solution is simple, God is answering.–Albert Einstein
  26. Science is always wrong, it never solves a problem without creating ten more.  – George Bernard Shaw
  27. The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem.–John Peers
  28. If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.― Hilary Mantel
  29. It is well known that “problem avoidance” is an important part of problem solving. Instead of solving the problem you go upstream and alter the system so that the problem does not occur in the first place.–Edward de Bono
  30. Our tendency to create heroes rarely jibes with the reality that most nontrivial problems require collective solutions.–Warren Bennis
  31. Recognizing a problem is the first step to solving it… Some problems cannot be solved but you can make peace with them.–Sanya Friedman

You may also like to see:

1. Problem Solving and Engineering Education

2. Engaging Students in Puzzle Solving for Developing their Logical Problem Solving ability


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