[Question] The Right Way of Formulating a Problem?

David Chap­man Writes,

Find­ing a good for­mu­la­tion for a prob­lem is of­ten most of the work of solv­ing it.

I agree with this in­tu­itively, and I feel like I have seen this prin­ci­ple at work in my own work and in the prob­lems I have tried to solve. How­ever, when I try to con­vince oth­ers of this idea, I strug­gle to find ex­am­ples that they can con­nect with or that they find com­pel­ling.

I sus­pect that pro­gram­mers find this idea ap­peal­ing be­cause we rou­tinely work with for­mal sys­tems, and all of us know the ex­pe­rience of mak­ing a minor change in per­spec­tive and see­ing an im­pos­si­ble prob­lem turn into an easy one. So I’m most in­ter­ested in ex­am­ples that have noth­ing to do with code, ex­am­ples that a lay au­di­ence would be able to grasp.

I would be par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in ex­am­ples from the his­tory of sci­ence or medicine, if any­one can think of some. Scott and Scurvy is the only ex­am­ple I cur­rently know of, and while in­ter­est­ing, does not seem like a perfect fit.

Much ap­pre­ci­ated!