Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Making a food item vs Solving a Puzzle - An attempt to characterize Testing Mindset

A Disclaimer: I am going to make some sweeping generalizations about how testers and developers (generic name including programmers, designers and business analysts) think and work. This is an attempt to characterize a /typical/ testing (or tester) mindset - a set of dominant thinking patterns, attitudes, biases, choices and behaviors.

I was reading out a bedtime story to my 9 year old daughter - I was holding a book of "Akbar-Birbal" stories. In one story - King Akbar asks Birbal, narrating how typically "giving" works. Under what circumstances - giver's hand is at bottom and receiver's hand is at the top - was Akbar's Puzzle. Under normal circumstances - giver's hand would be at top and reciever's hand below that of givers. How do you solve this puzzle? What goes on in your mind when you encounter stuff like this?

This got me into thinking how in general solving such puzzles/riddles work. When you start solving puzzles like the one above - your mind would be like water gushing out of a pipe - divergent thinking. You need to work towards solving the puzzle from definition of the problem out into vast open exploration.

Different types of puzzle require different approaches to solution - in some cases you know the answer and in some other cases you don't.

1. Math problem - Solve a simultaneous algebraic equation or solve a differential equation
2. Solve Sudoku
3. Play Chess - from initial state to win.
4. Play Scramble - how many words you can make from sets of jumbled letters?

Contrast solving puzzles to say cooking (or making) a food item from a recipe or with someone's help. Here you have more or less definitive, probably seen previously end state when you know you are done. You work with mostly known steps or incremental activities from start to end. In other words you do convergent thinking. Many acts of "construction" go from some known set of conditions and some known end state - you go from say "requirements" to "working software"

Contrast that to a testing problem or solving a riddle.

Extending these two activities - cooking a food item and solving a puzzle - I think former describes how developers work/think where as later characterizes typical testers way of thinking.

What do you think?


Duncan Nisbet said...

Interesting! I use a similar model likening SW dev team to professional kitchen staff.

Im refining the model as we speak...

ZeeKhana Khazana said...

It sounds interesting and positive mind needed to understand. Cooking and creative activity takes more attention and patience. I do care of all things while preparing healthy food recipes for my family.