The Yellow Duck Approach

The ‘Yellow Duck Approach’ is a brilliant method where developers talk through coding problems with the duck. This simple act of explaining things to the duck often helped them solve complex issues. You’re forced to break down complex ideas into simpler, more understandable parts by explaining your strategy out loud, even to an inanimate object. As you articulate each step, it becomes easier to identify where issues might lie, which might not be as apparent when thinking silently.

I was introduced to this method by a colleague, who had a yellow rubber duck sitting on his desk. It seemed out of place, so I asked about it. He explained that he used it for, and I quote, ‘rubber duck debugging’. This was very intriguing and we started chatting on the topic.

At that time, I was working on a challenging project in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, aiming to create a seamless and engaging customer journey. The complexity of this task was quite daunting. In this context, the ‘Yellow Duck Approach’, which I had recently discovered, transformed from a mere curiosity into a practical tool.

Our project involved multiple touchpoints – from initial engagement through digital marketing to post-purchase follow-ups, covering channels like Email, SMS, Social Media, Apps, and In-store interactions. Each stage presented unique challenges, adding layers of complexity to the overall strategy.

I began by taking each segment of the customer journey and discussing it with the duck. This process forced me to slow down and meticulously think through each step. As I verbalised the strategies, questions started to arise: Were we addressing the customer’s needs at each point? How could we make each interaction more meaningful? Were there any gaps in our communication? What data points should we use? What business rules are missing?

This simple act of explaining brought forth insights that were previously being overlooked. It helped in identifying areas where the journey could be more customer-centric, where we could integrate more personalised elements, and where automation could be optimised for better engagement.

To my surprise, the ‘Yellow Duck Approach’ worked out remarkably well. I was able to draft more precise and empathetic user stories, and this also helped me to better understand the user perspective, ensuring that the data used was relevant and impactful.

What began as a quirky experiment evolved into an innovative and interesting tool for me to use. For anyone in business analysis or any field that demands creative problem-solving, considering an out of the box approach might just unlock new levels of understanding and achievement.

18 December 2023

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