What is the X/Y problem? How do I solve it?


#1

The X/Y Problem is asking for help with your solution rather than asking for help with your problem. That is, you are trying to solve problem X and you think solution Y would work. But instead of asking about X when you run into trouble, you ask about Y.

This can cause frustration all around because the people trying to help don’t understand why you’re trying to do something that doesn’t make sense to them. And the person asking for help doesn’t understand why it is so hard to get it done. (I like to call this phenomena “ice-skating uphill”.)

The solution is to describe what you’re trying to get done … not how you’re trying to get it done. This allows the people trying to help to have all the information to come up with approaches that you might not have thought of.

See also: Einstellung Effect


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