The difference between developers and problem solvers

by | Feb 17, 2021

In today’s business-oriented world, problem-solving is an important skill to have. Although many successful business owners like Richard Branson or Elon Musk have it, this skill is applicable in other, not strictly leadership-oriented jobs. Software development is one of them.

Developing an approach based on business-solving steps in software development increases the odds of creating a solution that will satisfy both customer’s needs and decision maker’s requirements.

What makes a good problem solver?

Most people assume that raw intelligence is enough for a good problem solver.  On the contrary, a research conducted by Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan and published in Harvard Business Review titled “How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers” proved that neither one of these factors is a good predictor of problem-solving ability.

The best problem solvers are either experts in their fields or people who rely on other’s high technical expertise and experience. For example, Steve Jobs certainly had some groundbreaking ideas, but it was Steve Wozniak who had the competence to execute them and build their globally recognized Apple products.

Other characteristics of problem solvers are their broad and strategic focus, paramount work ethic,  along with strong communication and interpersonal skills. Problems can be also solved through innovation, challenging of the assumptions we hold, or by looking at them from different angles.

A problem-solving approach in software development

Despite popular belief, understanding a programming language, framework or algorithm is not the difficult part of software building. Adopting a holistic approach for a fully functional resolution of business problems is the hardest part.

The first hurdle many developers encounter is not knowing what they’re asked to do, or what the problem actually is. The problem-solution oriented developers will first take the time to identify the core issue. It can be as simple as explaining it in plain English to another person.  This can easily help in identifying some holes in the logic.

It is important to work in accordance with the technical specification to have some sort of roadmap and idea for system architecture. Software developers oriented towards problem-solving will know that there’s an issue at hand that needs to be resolved when it comes down to coding a piece of behavior into a system. They see there’s a  bigger goal to reach than simply writing a software: the value of a solution to the end user.

Resolving business problems

Once the problem is defined, it’s time for a software developer to concentrate on the heart of the matter and chart a course of action that will lead to a solution. To define decision-making criteria, a software developer needs to clarify his priorities.

The best solution isn’t always the one that first comes to mind or the one that was long considered. The good software developer will evaluate the pros and cons of each option in the problem-solving process in order to develop the best strategy.

When you’re choosing between two exceptional software developers, choose the one who is a problem solver on top of it. In the short run, there’s no difference – both developers will fix a simple bug, or make necessary code changes. In the long run, hiring a problem solver can make your life and business easier and potentially reduce the cost of software maintenance.

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