Problem Solving in the Modern Age

Where do you go when you don’t know the answer to something? Likely Google. But if you were like me, you probably used it mainly to remember that guy, who was in that movie… about that thing? Let me tell you, Google can do so much more than that – it can be your problem solving secret weapon.

You may be saying, yeah, I already know that Google knows everything. What’s your point?

My point is, I still find people every day who say “Where’d you learn to do that?” or  “I don’t know how to do that.” Well my friends, if you can harness the power of Google, you won’t have to utter those words ever again* (*results may vary). The answers are out there – the trick is: 1). Know how to ask the question, and 2.) Believe that you will find the answer.

Key Point #1: Know How to Ask the Question

I think this is often overlooked and can be a roadblock for many. Google is full of information but you need to know how to access it. For example, I was building a spreadsheet and had a bunch of words separated by hashtags in a column, for many rows of data. I wanted to count up how many times each of those words appeared for each row, and total that at the end.

So I asked Google “count words in a column excel,” which produced some results. I found one that sounded like what I wanted, clicked the link and tried the formula. Nope, it just counted some words but I could tell it wasn’t the solution.

This is the critical point where many give up. Resist the urge!

Key Point #2: Believe That You Will Find the Answer

My one search didn’t do it. But as I skimmed the original article, I saw links to other related formulas – and found one that sounded closer to what I wanted. I tried it – it worked! But it gave me a “true” value when I really a number, so I could sum the numbers. OK, back to Google. “turn true result to a number excel.” Voila! The second search result gives me a quick fix that works.

The Moral of the Story

I know this example was for Excel, but it will work for anything – you just have to know how to ask the question (by really asking for the result you’re trying to achieve), and by doing some good old fashioned trial and error, without giving up.

Problem solving is a bit of a lost art, and I think some people blame that on technology. However, I think technology is great – we have access to more information than ever before, and it’s available to anyone with a computer and internet connection. It’s about combining that technology with our own reasoning and determination – that will really take us far.

A final note, Google is how many tech folks make it through the day – there’s no possible way to know how to do everything, whether it’s coding a website, using software, or whatever.

They say that successful people know when and where to go for help – who said it couldn’t be Google?

Put It Into Action

Next time you want to do something, visualize what it is you want to do, or the problem you’re experiencing. Then, do a Google search and read through the results – if you need to rephrase your question, keep doing it. Skim the results and keep skimming. There is someone, somewhere, who has had your question or situation. And read the comments! They can validate the solution or point you in a better direction. Believe that you will find the solution, because you will!

Happy problem solving!

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