3 Easy Critical Thinking Exercises Every Software Engineer Should Use Daily

A group crossing a gap using a bridge they built themselves.

It's a common misconception that you need to be born with a high level of intelligence to be creative. Research shows that creativity is not related to intelligence once you get beyond an I.Q. of about 120. That means that even if you're no more intelligent than most people, you still have the potential to wield a great deal of creativity.

The good news is that software engineers can do several things to increase their creativity. One of the most effective is to engage in creative thinking exercises. These exercises help software engineers break out of their usual mode of thinking and develop new and innovative ideas.

Break complex problems into smaller parts.

Software engineers can break down complex problems into smaller pieces to solve them more effectively. By analyzing a problem and breaking it down into smaller parts, software engineers can better understand the individual components that make up the whole. Focusing on smaller chunks allows them to come up with more innovative solutions and avoid getting overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem.

Most software engineers are familiar with the frustration of trying to solve a complex problem. Frequently, it can seem impossible to get a clear picture of the problem, let alone find a solution. However, software engineers can use several familiar techniques to break down complicated problems and make them easier to solve.

A mind map showing the relationship between a problem and all the different solutions.

One way to break down a complex problem is to create a "mind map." A mind map is a diagram that shows the different parts of the problem and how they're interconnected. By creating a mind map, software engineers can better understand the problem and identify potential solutions.

Use analogies to make connections.

When software engineers use analogies, they compare a problem to something similar to better understand it. Metaphors allow software engineers to see the situation from a different perspective and find new ways to solve it. Comparing one thing to another can help software engineers see problems in a new light and develop innovative solutions.

For example, when thinking about building an MVP (minimum viable product), a common analogy is that you are making a scooter rather than a sports car. Both get you to the same destination, but the scooter is significantly cheaper without all the bells and whistles of the sports car.

Use "what if" questions to explore different solutions.

"What if" questions are a great way for software engineers to explore different solutions to a problem. By considering different hypothetical scenarios, software engineers can identify various potential solutions. While many solutions might not all be great, it helps distinguish what is valuable within particular solutions. Creating multiple solutions helps identify the best solution for the specific problem they're trying to solve.

Grafitti on a wall saying 'what now?'

Think about the last problem you solved to practice using "what if" questions. What is a different way you could have solved the problem? What if you had unlimited time to work on a solution? What if the solution had to be solved using a particular technology or tool? Asking yourself these questions will help your mind explore different approaches to solving problems and thinking outside the box.

Critical thinking exercises are essential for software engineers

Problem-solving is one of the most critical skills software engineers can possess. It helps them think critically about the software they are developing and come up with innovative solutions to problems. Critical thinking exercises can help software engineers become more creative, and problem-solving skills are essential for software engineering jobs.

Complex problems can be daunting, but software engineers can use various techniques to break them down and make them easier to solve. By using analogies, asking "what if" questions, and breaking problems down into smaller pieces, software engineers can develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Critical thinking exercises can also help software engineers become more creative and better at problem-solving. So if you're looking to improve your problem-solving skills, try out these critical thinking exercises.

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