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Greedy Algorithm

Amit Kumar Ghosh  5 min read
19 Jun 2023


Are you looking for an efficient way to solve your algorithmic problems? If so, then the 'greedy algorithm' could be the solution. A greedy algorithm is a powerful method to quickly identify an optimal solution by making the best decision at any given step and always choosing the most suitable option without reconsidering previously selected choices. This approach makes it easy to develop various patterns such as graphs, networks, and strings in computer science and numerous other business or engineering applications. In this article, we will explore what makes a greedy algorithm unique, how it works, and why it's so popular among many researchers today!

What is a Greedy Algorithm?

A Greedy algorithm is a problem-solving approach that involves making decisions based solely on the information available at each step of the process. It's a simple yet effective approach that's commonly used across a variety of fields, including computer science, engineering, and economics. The idea behind a Greedy algorithm is to optimize each step by choosing the best option at that moment, hoping that the entire process will lead to the optimal result in the end. While it may not always provide the best solution, it's widely referred to as one of the most intuitive and straightforward algorithms available. Overall, a Greedy algorithm can be an incredibly useful tool for problem-solving, especially when time and resources are limited.

Greedy Algorithm Properties

  1. Greedy-choice property: A greedy algorithm always makes the locally optimal choice at each step, without considering the overall future consequences. It chooses the option that seems best at the moment.
  2. Optimal substructure: The problem must exhibit optimal substructure, which means that an optimal solution to the problem can be constructed from optimal solutions to its subproblems. The greedy algorithm builds up the solution incrementally by making a series of locally optimal choices, ensuring that the overall solution is also optimal.
  3. Greedy stays ahead (or safe): This property ensures that even though the algorithm makes locally optimal choices, the solution generated by the greedy algorithm is still feasible and has at least the same quality as any other feasible solution.
  4. Greedy algorithms are usually efficient: Greedy algorithms often have a time complexity that is better than brute force or other exhaustive search methods. This efficiency is one of the advantages of using greedy algorithms for solving optimization problems.

Advantages of Greedy Algorithm

  • Simplicity: Greedy algorithms are usually straightforward to understand and implement. They follow a step-by-step approach where the best possible decision is made at each stage based on the current information. This simplicity makes them easier to design and analyze compared to more complex algorithms.
  • Efficiency: Greedy algorithms often have low time complexity and can run efficiently even for large input sizes. The greedy approach typically involves making local optimal choices, which can lead to faster execution times compared to exhaustive search or dynamic programming techniques.
  • Memory efficiency: Greedy algorithms often require minimal memory usage. They usually don't need to store the entire problem space or maintain an extensive set of intermediate solutions. Instead, they only need to store the current best solution and update it as they progress.

Disadvantages of Greedy Algorithm

  • Lack of global optimization: Greedy algorithms make locally optimal choices at each step without considering the overall solution. As a result, they may not always lead to the globally optimal solution. The greedy approach may overlook future consequences and make choices that seem optimal at the moment but turn out to be suboptimal in the long run.
  • Lack of backtracking: Greedy algorithms do not backtrack or reconsider decisions made earlier. Once a choice is made, it is not revisited, even if better options become available later. This can lead to suboptimal solutions or even incorrect results.
  • Dependency on problem structure: Greedy algorithms heavily rely on the problem's structure and the specific criteria used to make greedy choices. Different problem structures may require different criteria for selecting the next step, and the same greedy algorithm may not work well for all problem instances.

What is the Greedy approach?

Greedy Choice: At each step, the algorithm makes the choice that seems best at that particular moment, without considering the overall problem.

Locally Optimal: The greedy algorithm chooses the option that maximizes or minimizes some criteria at each step, based on the current state of the problem.

Does Not Revisit Decisions: Once a decision is made, the greedy algorithm does not reconsider it or backtrack. It moves forward and does not change the choices made earlier.

No Guarantee of Global Optimal Solution: The greedy approach does not guarantee to find the best solution for every problem. It may produce suboptimal solutions in some cases.

Types of Greedy algorithm

Below listed are the types of Greedy algorithms:


In conclusion, the Greedy Algorithm can be a powerful tool for many different types of problems. It is a simple, yet efficient algorithm that has the potential to provide results in less time than other traditional methods. Being able to identify which problem would work best for this type of algorithm is essential for attaining good results. The real challenge lies in understanding when it should be utilized and paid attention to, as this may greatly benefit your project or solution. By utilizing the Greedy Algorithm with proper consideration, one may obtain favorable results for their projects and endeavors.

About Author
Amit Kumar Ghosh (SDE and Mentor)

A passionate professional with over 6 years of experience in development and training. He is passionate about learning new technologies and sharing his experience with professionals. He is an expert in C/C++, Java, Python and DSA.
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