In a Pinkcast from a couple of years ago, Dan Pink explains the concept of rubber duck debugging.
The name is a reference to a story in the book The Pragmatic Programmer in which a programmer would carry around a rubber duck and debug their code by forcing themselves to explain it, line-by-line, to the duck. By explaining the problem to someone else, possibly even to someone who knows nothing about programming, the programmer may stumble upon the solution in the process of explaining the problem.
As Pink points out, the rubber duck approach does not apply just to programming problems. If you get stuck writing a certain passage for a book or a paper, preparing a speech, solving a math problem, or getting your balance sheet to balance, just call in your rubber duck for help. By explaining where you are stuck to the rubber duck, you may discover how to get unstuck, without having to ask for help from a friend or co-worker.
My guess is that many of us have experienced this. We start explaining a problem we are having – software, writing, math, whatever – and simply as a result of talking through the problem, we arrive at the solution, without the other person ever having to say a word.
Since many people are hesitant to ask others for help, the rubber duck approach could be the perfect solution in such a case.
So give it a shot and you may find yourself saying, “Rubber Ducky, I’m awfully fond of you.”
Here’s the Pinkcast, followed by, you guessed it, Rubber Ducky by Ernie.
*image from medium.com