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Heuristic Redefinition

| On 07, Jan 2008

Michael S. Slocum

Before a problem should be solved it is important that it be decomposed into sub-systems. That way each sub-system can be analyzed and the problem can be solved one part at a time. This is an important aspect of actual problem solving. Many problem solvers have been thwarted by attacking a complex system and then being overwhelmed by the complexity associated with that task. Problem decomposition solves many of these issues. The Heuristic Redefinition Process (HRP) is a powerful method for accomplishing the decomposition of a problem into its constituent elements. HRP is simple enough and the basic steps of the process can be described as follows:

  1. Describe the system that contains the problem
  2. Define the elements that comprise the system
  3. Define the objective of the system
  4. Describe how each element achieves the objective of the system
  5. Convert each description into a question: “How can we ensure the ELEMENT provides the OBJECTIVE?”
  6. Each question then becomes a problem solving or optimization opportunity for the system
  7. The problem solver prioritizes these and then begins problem solving at this level (not the original system level)

HRP is a simple approach that can dramatically improve the results of the problem solver’s activities. It should be part of every problem solving effort and is an important part of defining the problem.