Friday, 25 June 2010

Showing your thinking or thought-process

A chunk of this post is based on a comment I posted on James Bach's post on challenging colleagues, here. You've probably read it, but if not I'd recommend it - the post not my comment :)

The Challenge
Challenging colleagues is an interesting topic. I personally enjoy being challenged - although maybe not a constant deluge so that I don't get time to think (but that's probably just a symptom of a different problem.)

How I respond to challenges is very much a part of me - responding to challenges is intrinsically a personal thing - everyone does it differently. Some people might not want to respond, but that just means it takes time for the response to emerge, develop or evolve - not everyone (myself included) can always respond quickly. For me, "let me think about that and come back to you" is sometimes a necessary "breather".

Maybe somebody responds in brutal Anglo-Saxon ;-) But that's probably a symptom of something else or maybe a undiplomatic way of saying "I don't want to respond to that right now."

But, I think being challenged and taking up challenges is a necessary part of being a thinking tester.

Suppose you're trying to describe a problem to a colleague (or even just discussing a topic) and the "why" and "what do you mean by that" questions come up. It forces you to go deeper or re-assess your approach (either you haven't got to the right level of detail/background yet or your approach is making an assumption about how the other person thinks/responds...)

This is good - it forces you to think, analyse what your own pre-conceptions are and understand more detail of what you're trying to say. This self-evaluation is key. At least I think it's a key part for any thinking tester.

For any thinking tester this is necessary to help their own learning and understanding about a topic - those are the tools that will help them ask better questions and even look for assumptions that others are making (whether it's about a product feature, claim or bug.)

So, challenges per se are a "must" or a /good/ thing. Of course, how people respond to them is a more personal thing - sometimes it's instant and sometimes they need their own space, go away and think about it. Time to digest, ruminate, cogitate and then respond.

But it's the thinking that's important - and even showing your thinking.

Showing Your Thinking
During my "maths days" then "showing your working" was actually quite important - it was an insight into your assumptions and map-making to come to a solution, idea, hypothesis, conjecture etc. It was helpful to the lecturers - as they could highlight traps, wrong-turns and shaky assumptions. Their job was to help you think through the problem and even bounce ideas back and forth. So showing your working was just a way for the lecturer to get up to speed (if need be) to your thinking - and that's a good thing most of the time.

I try to re-use that idea - not only because it can help others understand my point or question - but I might re-visit the idea sometime later and then it's a useful reminder about what my own assumptions were "at the time" - they might not hold true longer or been forgotten (very possible!)

Plus it helps to stop things getting lost in translation - even when you have the same language! You might speak the same language but a different dialect or sub-language. Do you feel me?

I enjoy reading testing blog posts and comments. Sometimes that's the trigger needed to kick-start my own thinking around a topic - or usually a certain angle of it. Some of my best creative and instant thinking comes whilst answering questions and even posting comments on other people's blog - time to go fish for those comments...

So, I definitely think challenges are a good thing. But, responding to challenges and "showing your thinking" are even better!

Do you show your thinking?