Mike Lyles on “Testing Like A Kid”

Mike Lyles on “Testing Like A Kid”

Please welcome a distinguished guest blogger, Mike Lyles, an international speaker, writer and QA Director with more than 20 yrs of IT experience. His passion is to mentor, coach, and guide others to grow professionally. He finds fulfillment in the look on people’s faces when they are inspired and enlightened. He has written many articles and publications on leadership, software testing, and motivation.

From 1952 to 1970, Art Linkletter was the host of a TV show called “House Party”. In this TV show, he had a segment called “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. He would ask children simple questions, after which he would receive astounding responses. The humorous and surprising responses clearly showed that children many times see things differently than adults.

What Children Tell Us

We are all born natural explorers. Anyone that has children can tell you all the many things that they have to account for in raising a child. Children are curious, intrigued by every single thing around them, and they explore the world to get answers to all the things they see and experience. It is for this reason that there are successful companies which develop so many “child-proof” products. These products range from doorknobs, gates, and cabinet drawer stops, to soft covers for table corners, and electrical outlet protectors. As parents, we realize that without these things, young children will be at risk due to their curious nature.

As children grow up, meet new friends, and step through each year of school and life, they begin to build their own perceptions of the world. While teachers, parents, friends, and others can influence the way a child believes, acts, and thinks, many of the experiences in life are confined internally to the individual. If you’ve ever seen a child role play or participate in an imaginary game, you experience the power of imagination and creativity.

As adults, we have grown up with assumptions, understandings, and we often confine ourselves to a pre-defined belief in how the world operates. If we are not careful, those perceptions will hold us back from tapping into the possibility of creativity, thought leadership, and innovation. We stand to risk the opportunity to do something that the world has never seen before.

Without creativity and curiosity, the average human will wake up every morning, get ready the same way as usual, take the same route to work, do their job as if they are a robot following instructions, leave their work, drive the same route back to home, eat dinner, and go to sleep. While the world needs some consistency and repetition at the time, there are so many opportunities to step outside the box and do things differently… to THINK differently… to start something that has never even been imagined… to leave the world a better place than we found it.

Throughout history, the most creative people in the world have been those that do not let the preconceptions and ideas of “this is how we have always done it” drive their strategies and approaches. Just like young children, they stepped into new ideas and strategies without any boundaries, which results in new ideas, innovations, and changes.

In testing, there is a tendency to do things “as we always have”. We lock ourselves into processes and methodologies that may not be as effective today as they were years ago.

In testing, there is a tendency to do things “as we always have”. We lock ourselves into processes and methodologies that may not be as effective today as they were years ago. To give a perfect example, imagine technology in the 1970’s and 1980’s. There was no internet or web pages to test, no mobile devices to test, no Wifi or cellular tests to be conducted. Things were different back then. And in just those 3-4 short decades, we continue to add new requirements, needs, and opportunities for testing.

In order to be effective, we have to remove the restrictions and boundaries and think outside the box…just like a kid would do. As a tester, each of us should approach each testing exercise as an opportunity to find that one observation that makes others ask “how did you do that?” or “why would you even THINK about conducting that type of test?”. I personally take pride in surprising my stakeholders with a testing report that makes them shake their heads in disbelief.

Children solve problems in many ways. And more often than not, they don’t carry a manual around with them on how to solve those problems. They learn with real-life examples, and by making decisions based on how things go due to their previous decisions. Creativity is king. And each of us holds within us the opportunity to be a little (or a LOT) more creative each and every day.

Don’t Confine Yourself

The next time you have a work assignment, don’t confine yourself to how things have always been done. Don’t lock yourself down to a set number of tests or instructions that will verify the product is ready to ship. Examine the product from multiple angles. Take a step back and look at it as the user would experience it. Evaluate the product for the many various ways that it could be used, the risks involved if it doesn’t work, and the possibilities of how it could be used beyond the scope of the product. Then, as you begin to test, evaluate the results of each action and test that you conduct – determine the direction you wish to go next. Don’t be afraid to accept that a left turn may leave you at a dead end and that you may need to take a few steps back and turn right instead. The goal is to EXPLORE. The purpose is to be CURIOUS. The results should be COMPREHENSIVE.

Think Outside the Box

Think outside the box. In fact, throw the box away. Believe, just as a young child, that each step takes you to something new and exciting. Have the childlike faith that you know what you are doing. Be fearless. Be curious. Be innovative. But most of all, laugh, smile, and have fun with every experience.

If you’ve lived long at all, someone has surely told you to “Grow Up” at least once in your life. To test like a kid, I challenge you to NOT grow up. Find your inner child. Channel it into everything you do as a tester. Be young and free. This is your moment! Test like a kid!

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