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3 simple approaches to solving complex problems

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3 simple approaches to solving complex problems

3 simple approaches to solving complex problems

06.05.2023

Business

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Today we will talk about Claude Shannon, one of the most influential scientists of the twentieth century, and his enormous contribution to the development of radio engineering, applied mathematics, and computer science. Don't rush ahead, this article is not about entropy, robust coding, or automata theory. We will talk about the principles that guided the scientist to achieve his goals.

Recently we presented a chronology of computer technology development. Claude Shannon's work «Mathematical Theory of Communication» played an important role in the formation of this industry, in particular the organization of information exchange between systems. This man was called the «father of the information age», he secured the status of cryptography as a science, and his approach to the study of problems and challenges deserves special attention.


Case # 1: Push the details to the back burner

It is an undeniable fact that a solution to a problem can only come after understanding it. People approach understanding a problem in different ways, most often by delving into the details. In studying the issue, we move from one part of the puzzle to another, hoping to get at the end a unified picture. But we get information overload.

Shannon thought differently. He was the author of the idea of lossless information compression and theories to remove redundancy in incoming messages. Thus, he was an advocate of eliminating details to get to the point as quickly as possible.

Very often a problem overgrown with irrelevant details turns out not to be a problem at all, but simply a situation with the most obvious solution.

Shannon was criticized for his lack of attention to detail. He did not even hide the fact that he did not like to write scientific articles, but he was reluctant to do so, realizing the necessity.

Case #2: Deviate from course

As one ponders the task more and more, using logical thinking, one creates a tunnel vision effect. From one point he always comes to the same one. If you connect creative thinking and are not afraid to «go beyond» you can get an unexpected result: a lot of non-standard ways to solve the problem. More often than not, a paltry number of ideas will be effective, but you will get several alternatives.

In order to think creatively, reformulate, invert, exaggerate and downplay the problem. The important thing is not to change the essence. In this way, a holistic picture will emerge. Ask yourself not the usual «What is the best thing to do?» but «What would be the worst choice in this situation?» or «Which way would lead to the goal faster, which would be difficult but effective, and which would be cheap in terms of a number of resources?».

Case #3: Ideas х 2

Claude Shannon worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he did not give lectures but only seminars, where he worked with students on problems that he himself had not yet thoroughly studied.

He did this based on his principle of doubling incoming ideas. Shannon believed that genius solutions require not only the quality but also the quantity of ideas. He said that there were people who could only reduce the ideas they accepted, and there were those who doubled the ideas they received.

Similarly, not all of the options generated will be workable. What matters here is whether the essence of the problem has been understood. If so, the ideas will be worthwhile; if the proposed idea does not solve the essence of the problem, it should not be considered a solution.

Principles application

Thanks to the information theory developed by the scientist, the main problems of message transmission were solved: coding and transmission of information through noisy channels and elimination of redundancy of transmitted messages. It was a huge breakthrough, appreciated by the whole world. Today, all digital communication systems function on the basis of the laws deduced by Claude Shannon. The man left the world a tremendous legacy, a piece of which is in every one of us, in every digital device.

Learn to look at problems, putting aside details, see the situation from different angles, do not stop, creating more and more solutions to problems. You will be surprised at the results!

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