I happened to read a really engaging paper today, by a leading testing consultant and speaker, Zeger Van Hese on “Testing in the Age of Distraction”. He talks about how there are distractions all around us and how they are inevitable. However not all distractions are bad; some are good and help us further boost our thought process and productivity. Of the several points that his paper talked about, I wanted to pick on one which was the most intriguing to me – “critical thinking vs. creative thinking in testing” and what share each of these play at different stages in the testing lifecycle. He has referenced this from the original blog post by John Stevenson.
While there are ample definitions of these terms critical and creative thinking, by experts, available online, I like his simple interpretation of it which reads:
Creative thinking is divergent while critical thinking is convergent.
There is no denying that both are equally important to inculcate as a tester but what is even more important is knowing what to use when and where, to bring their combined benefits into the testing process – this is important especially in the current day, where our distractions are high and just continuing in a flow of creative thinking might not yield us any convergent benefits that translate into better product quality.
He talks about the various stages including: documentation review, test planning, test execution, test analysis and test reporting touching upon what activities are taken up at each of these stages. At a high level, critical thinking outweighs creative thinking in the documentation review and test analysis stages where you are more into an information gathering/assimilation and analysis modes. Creative thinking takes a stronger hold in the test planning stage when you are diverse in your thought process, letting your creative flow guide you into what kinds of tests you want to carry out, what your testing strategy needs to be, looking at how to bring in newer test ideas which are not just intrinsic but also extrinsic in nature.
Critical and creative thinking have a relatively equal share to play in the test execution stage where you put your ideas into action. While being creative here lets you test newer possibilities including ones along the unbeaten path, critical thinking herein is that soft leash that keeps a check on your creative thinking, to ensure they translate into measurable results to align with your product quality. Finally in the test reporting stage again both critical and creative thinking are used, but creative thinking should be used more as it helps you interpret your results into actionable items for the team at all levels, be it your senior management or your immediate team. So, you are diverse in your thinking to interpret results and report them not as mere numbers but as information that is relevant and meaningful in empowering various entities take important decisions. While your creativity and diverse thinking helps you with this process of embracing everyone on the team, your critical thinking is important in converging all of these results into one single message that represents your product’s quality.
In my next testing assignment, I for sure am planning to try this path of making a conscious effort and evaluating how my critical and creative thinking hats need to be used at different stages. Hope you would be excited to try this too and share your feedback. Thanks John for this insightful post which has already unleashed my critical and creative thought processes.