Want More Innovative Testing? Put on a Different Thinking Cap
By: Rajini Padmanaban
As a testing community, we have come a long way over the last decade in enhancing our testing know-how and techniques and leveraging new tools. However, it is not uncommon to hear that we need to think outside the box, which leaves us wondering: What is “outside the box” thinking, and how do we achieve it?
Testers commonly face challenges around one-dimensional thinking, limited ideas, and communication issues as we interact with several entities and deal with ever-changing roles and responsibilities. Some challenges are also triggered by testers working on the same product on an ongoing basis, where comfort can set in and hamper any possible innovation on the job.
Sometimes, all you need to break out of a comfort zone or come up with better approaches is a fresh perspective. Putting on a different “thinking cap” can help you innovate solutions in a whole new way.
The idea of thinking caps is based on the popular book by Edward de Bono, Six Thinking Hats, which was published in 1985. In the book he talks about promoting multi-dimensional thinking by mapping different colors to different cognitive styles. Here’s a quick description of the caps and what they represent:
Blue provides an overview of the situation. When a tester puts on this hat, he should look for the context in any situation or problem. It helps the tester define the purpose of any task at a broad level, requires him to determine the next steps on project execution, and controls the use of other thinking caps. In all, it promotes good contextual thinking.
White analyzes facts and information. This cap requires the tester to examine data, which could be in the form of test cases, bug-tracking tools, state of defects, requirements, user stories, etc. It is a purely neutral thought process that just works from factual viewpoints. The tester is herein able to collect information that promotes educated actions and decisions.
Red triggers passions and emotions. This cap helps the tester explore her gut feelings that might not usually surface in a testing effort. These feelings may be positive or negative, but they are all important from a testing perspective. Red helps the tester bring out an emotional angle to end-user testing, which is slowly gaining in prominence.
Yellow drives optimistic thinking. With this cap, the tester is able to look at product benefits and best possible outcomes while keeping in mind the goal and objective of the testing effort. There is still a certain negative connotation to testing because people think it only looks to break software. But with a yellow cap on, the tester forces himself to step into a positive zone when objectively analyzing product quality.
Black lets the tester explore risks and problems associated with any situation. It helps testers be cautious and look for what could go wrong. The more this cap is worn up front, the more the tester can help minimize risks at earlier stages of product development.
Green brings new ideas and creativity. This cap forces the tester to find alternatives for tackling problems effectively and creatively. Brainstorming and promoting lateral thinking among team members in problem-solving and project implementation are both great ways to bring the team into the green zone.
Of course, there is no magic at work here that will make ideas gush in once testers “put on” these thinking caps. But what this imagery does is give testers adequate time and opportunity to think along specific lines, promoting overall multi-dimensional thinking that may not have been possible in normal circumstances. Such a thought process also fixes any boredom or limited ideas testers may be challenged with.
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