Gaining insight into your testing

In a recent post on How To Gain Insight, Peter Vajda shares his thoughts about what it takes to "gain insight and contact with inner wisdom and guidance." In the post, he lays out four "steps" for developing that insight. While I think the post is fairly generic, there are some lessons there that resonate with me.

For example, in step one, you have to care about what you're attempting to gain insight into. Not only that, but you have to care about it enough to shut out other sources for noise; at least enough to allow you to focus. The goal is to be "not distracted by thoughts, e-mail, cell phones, or other sources of ‘noise’."

I see this a lot in testing. Many testers sit down to test something, but don't take the time to create an environment where they can have insights into the testing they are doing. They don't create an environment free of noise. They often don't have an "intensity of purpose."

One way to help develop an intensity of purpose for your testing is to develop a clear mission for your testing. Tell yourself that for the next hour, two hours, or even thirty minutes, you'll be doing X. And not just some generic statement of work, but give your mission some life. Give it a story or specific purpose. Something that points to coverage and risk.

In step two, he talks about skills. I love this. It ties directly into the skills and tactics that have been outlined for exploratory testing. "If any specific knowledge or experience is required, then you must gain that knowledge and pursue that experience."

In step three, he talks about the ability to focus "in the now." This ties into some of the dynamics described in the skills and tactics for exploratory testing. It's thinking vs. doing, quick vs. slow, or touring vs. testing. "An insight most often arises when you suspend thinking and proceed without forcing."

In perhaps the best quote (for me) in the post, he points to practice:

"It’s a process that needs to be cultivated and practiced with consistency. No practice, no consistency, no insight."

Well said.