What is an algorithm?

An algorithm is defined as a specified process for solving a problem - often written by a human and performed by a computer. It’s like a recipe with exact steps that a computer follows to produce the same result every time - such as alphabetizing an event attendee list by last name.

Algorithms are especially useful for performing repetitive and complex calculations, processing large amounts of data, and completing automated reasoning tasks. Algorithms make processes more efficient.

Types of Algorithms

There are many different types of algorithms (it could easily become a rabbit hole of indefinite learning!), but here are a few of the more common types you might hear or encounter.

Algorithm Examples

Algorithms are nearly everywhere in the digital world - from Google’s page rank to recommendations in Netflix to ecommerce checkout pages. In each instance, these algorithms are crunching data to deliver relevance to you.

If you use a spreadsheet to combine, separate, or otherwise order data, you’re using an algorithm to complete those tasks. As the names imply, Merge Sort, Quick Sort, and Heap Sort are sorting algorithms used to arrange and rearrange data in various ways to provide more useful insights.

Link Analysis is a type of graph algorithm that maps the relationship between data points. A prime example of what Link Analysis can produce is your Facebook Newsfeed. Link Analysis works well for discovering new, related content, matches in data for known patterns, and anomalies where known patterns are violated.

Additional Resources to Learn More About Algorithms

Want to learn more about algorithms and how they impact the way we live and conduct business? Check out these resources for more in-depth study.