First, you should recognize the central importance of representing and classifying a problem appropriately. If a friend does not want to fly, and your statistics about air safety are not helping, perhaps you have mis-classified an emotional problem as an intellectual one.
Second, consider whether an appropriate heuristic (or rule Of thumb) might help you solve the problem. If your problem is to develop a better filing system for an office, start by devising a way to organize a single file drawer (simplification). If you are seeking ways to improve automobile brakes, you might consider how a cat stops itself on a slippery floor (reasoning by analogy).
Third, if you are having trouble with a problem, examine your mental set the assumptions you are making about the problem. Are you adding constraints to the problem that are not really necessary, as in the candle and box-of-tacks problem It may help to stop working on the problem for a while and then n:turn to it with a fresh perspective.
Fourth, practice. Problem-solving skills can be learned from experience. Books on problem solving, such as The Complete Problem Solver by John R. Hayes (1989) and Conceptual Block-busting by James Adams provide opportunities for such practice.
Technological advances, from digital watches to computer programs, can also help people solve problems. Unfortunately, such devices sometimes present the user with a new problem: how do I get the darn thing to work? As discussed in the Building Bridges section, human factors professionals provide a bridge be- tween psychology and engineering and help to design products that people can actually use.