Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Something Old, Something New

"Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things . . . well, new things aren’t what they expect. They like to know that, say; a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don’t want to know that man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds . . . Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true." 
TERRY PRATCHETT The Truth: a Novel of Discworld
This passage from the Terry Pratchett novel "The Truth" resonates very much with me especially when it comes to world of testing.  I see a connection with how different people in our craft react with each other when it comes to new ideas, thoughts and innovations.  There are those who embrace change and want to know more.  There are then those who like time to think critically and use different forms of reasoning before deciding if it is good or not.  Then there are those who dismiss out of hand anything new, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or goes against their current beliefs.

My concern and the reason for this blog post is how within testing we can become more creative and innovative.  As one of my previous post stated I think to be creative we need to think about finding problems than trying to solve them.  Continuing on the path of our focus being only to solve problems restricts our creative thinking.  At the same time we need to find ways to convince those who dismiss anything new or unexpected.  To do this a set of guidelines should be introduced to encourage creative thinking rather than discourage:

Those who easily dismiss new ideas should not be quick to be negative, negative comments and views are one of the easiest ways to destroy creativity.
“The creative impulses of most people can be suffocated by negative criticism, cynical put-downs or dismissive remarks.” 
Ken Robinson – Out of our Minds
Company leaders need to lead from the top and encourage new ideas and innovation, making the task of thinking (creative and divergent) as important as other everyday tasks. They need to give time to allow this to happen.
“it’s not enough to think differently. We also have to act differently” 
Abraham Lincoln (Taken from  Ken Robinson – Out of our Minds)
There is a need to encourage people to try, and to see failure and mistakes as learning opportunities. We should stop blaming and encourage risk taking to enhance the opportunities for serendipity moments.
“We don’t teach people how to deal with failure and this is a fundamental oversight.” 
Ken Robinson – Out of our Minds
We need to have more diversity within teams, encourage people who may have different views to yourself to work with you.  Employ someone who thinks differently to you.  This gives more chances that new ideas will be generated from these differences.
“Such people will provide a wider range of knowledge from which to extract information and build upon ideas.” 
Why diversity is the mother of  creativity - Jeffrey Baumgartner
Spend more on training the people who work with you or for you.  Take an interest in their learning, encourage, mentor, and support their creative needs.
 “Creative teaching requires moving from a focus on imparting knowledge to knowledge acquisition, providing opportunities for the learner to engage in deep thought and productive action.” 
Susan Keller-Mathers, Encyclopedia of Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent
It is not enough to come up with new ideas; creativity involves doing something and applying your ideas.
"Innovation is the process of putting new ideas into practice. Innovation is applied creativity." 
Ken Robinson – Out of our Minds
Some may find this a strange post and wonder what it has to do with testing.  I see testing as a very creative process especially when it is unburdened from too much process and stifled by procedures.  Exploratory testing lends itself very easily to the creative process and encourages the tester to think and discover new and exciting ideas.  We need to do more of this style of thinking so we become more engaged with our creative side.  A few people over the past few years have been saying that testing is dead, I would say that the non-thinking uncreative tester is going to die out and become extinct  (The checking robots as some may classify them).  We need to encourage and develop working environments in which  people can connect to their creative side and be allowed the freedom to explore new ideas and not be afraid of making affordable small mistake from which they can learn.

I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the American poet Jack Kerouac,  It is OK to be different and to challenge the status quo we need to encourage more crazy ones into testing.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” 
Jack Kerouac


  1. Nice post and I'd certainly like to see more creativity and innovation amongst testers and the testing industry

    How has your company been with this approach ? Have you been encouraged to go down this road, have you met opposition ?

  2. Thank you for your comment Phil.

    Yes in my experiences I have been encouraged to innovate and come up with new ways of working. Some have been successful others not so, it is via the test community that I have been able to do this. There are many great people within testing who will support and help you if you are willing to learn.