Rubber Ducking Is The Unexpected Superpower for Developers

Earlier this week, I was in a one-on-one sync with one of my team members. He was struggling with a problem and couldn’t get his thoughts in order, which prompted me to mention the concept of rubber ducking. To my surprise, my colleague had never heard of this technique! This got me thinking: if this simple yet powerful method isn't widely known among developers, it’s high time to write about it.

In this article, we’ll dive into what rubber ducking is, where it comes from, and how you can apply it to your daily work. 💡

Rubber Ducking Is The Unexpected Superpower for Developers

What is Rubber Ducking?

Rubber ducking originates from the book The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas. The idea is simple: you explain your problem to a rubber duck (or another object). This forces you to articulate your thoughts and walk through the problem step by step, often leading to a breakthrough without needing someone else's help.

Why Does Rubber Ducking Work So Well?

Clarification of Thoughts: By explaining your problem out loud, you organize your thoughts and structure your thinking process. Often, you find the solution just by verbalizing each step.

New Perspectives: As you explain, you view the problem from a new angle. This can lead to new ideas or solutions you hadn’t considered before.

Revealing Errors: Explaining the problem can help uncover mistakes or missing steps in your logic that you might not notice otherwise.

How to Apply Rubber Ducking

👉 Step 1: Identify the Problem Begin by clearly identifying the problem you’re facing. This could be a bug in your code, a logical error, or another obstacle.

👉 Step 2: Explain it to Your Duck Place your rubber duck on your desk and explain the problem step by step as if you’re telling a colleague. Be detailed and omit nothing; even the smallest details can be important.

👉 Step 3: Look for Insights While explaining, pay attention to sudden insights or realizations. Often, you’ll have an “aha” moment midway through your explanation and see the solution.

Practical Tips for Effective Rubber Ducking

Take Your Time: Be patient and take the time to explain the problem fully and in detail. Rushing rarely helps.

Be Thorough: Try to verbalize every step of your thought process, even the steps that seem obvious to you. This forces you to overlook nothing.

Use a Real Rubber Duck: While the idea is symbolic, actually using a physical rubber duck (or another object) can make the method more effective.

Use my GPT: I've created a GPT "Reflective Duck" to use as a rubber duck. You can find it here.


Rubber ducking is a simple yet extraordinarily effective technique for solving problems by explaining them out loud. Whether you’re a programmer stuck on a bug or a product engineer wrestling with a design issue, give it a try. You’ll be amazed at how often you can find a solution just by talking it through! 🐥

Have you ever tried rubber ducking yourself? Or do you have another interesting problem-solving technique that you use? Let me know! 💬