Lets Test Session: Micheal Bolton – Critical Thinking For Testers

Fresh out of his keynote, Michael stepped into his session on “Critical Thinking For Testers” This session aimed to give Testers some tools to help them think their way out of a tight spot.

Picture of Michael Bolton

Michael kicked off the session with his “testing a dropped calculator” challenge – he dropped his calculator, how would you test it to see if its working ok? (if you don’t know this challenge, I suggest you try it – get in touch if you want!)

This was a great ice-breaker & got the group warmed up nicely for the excitement & challenges ahead.

Michael then introduced to a book he’d read – Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast & Slow” (I’ve subsequently read it & would highly recommend it – you’ll never trust your own judgement again!)

The book sets up 2 characters – System 1 & System 2 – to represent the 2 distinct ways our brains operate. System 1 is our instinct, intuition & emotional response to stimuli, System 2 is surer, calculating response (it has no emotion). I’m imaging a dog walker as System 2 & their dog as System 1. The dog reacts to sights, sounds & smells of its surroundings without really thinking about the consequences. The dog walker, however, is responsible for the dog & himself – should he let his dog sniff the butt of that bigger dog over there?

We were suggested to have a look at this video of Daniel Kahneman talking about the machinery of the mind. It gives a great introduction into the thinking of Daniel Kahneman & his book.

After a brief foray into the brain, Michael talked to us about how we interact with & respond to others – for this he used the Virginia Satir Integration Model (I’ve spoken a bit about this model in my post on Leo Hepis’ session).

Referring back to my notes, they’re a bit sketchy, so I’ll just copy them down so I have a record of them…

– Jerry Weinberg’s Rule of Three:

“If I can’t think of at least three different interpretations of what I received, I haven’t thought enough about what it might mean.”

– Answers can either be Quick, Pratical or Deep.

– What is an assumption? A model, idea, activity, object that represents another idea.

– What makes assumptions dangerous? Foundational, unlikely, blind, controversial, impolitic, volatile, unsustainable, premature, narcotic, latent

– The word “Maybe” – the suspension of certainty

– Michael sees testing as telling a story – Like a rope with 3 threads:

  • story of the product
  • how it was tested
  • what the value of the testing was

– We then moved onto the Wason experiment – 4 cards with E,V,4 & 7 displayed on screen. The rule states that “If the card shows an even number on one face, then its opposite face is a vowel”. How would you test to prove that rule?

I love this experiment & the results it provides. I also like Michaels representation of the cards & the ‘bugs’ it holds…

– 4 verbal heuristics for critical thinking:

  • Huh?
  • Really?
  • So?
  • Who says?

– Some tips for critical thinking:

  • Replace “the” with “a” – e.g. “a solution is…” rather than “the solution is…”
  • Append “unless” to statements
  • Whatever is happening, something else is happening as well
  • Whatever is true not might not be true for long
  • Whatever is true, is true to some person

Overall a thought provoking & reading list expanding session. Some great conversations were had throughout the session as people felt comfortable – throwing ideas out to keep the flow going. This interactivity really helped the vibe.

Go out & buy Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast & Slow”