Learning to Explore

20 April

I’d say I have been naturally exploratory all my life, as many of us are, I learned a few early lessons in life. Like if you mix playing with lighters and dry wood that’s stored in a garage, sooner or later the whole thing will go up in smoke. Another thing I learned is that many journeys from the kitchen to the blazing garage with nothing but a small teacup of water to pour onto said fire is not going to keep it at bay. Suffice to say I never burned down an entire garage ever again.

I think we are at our most exploratory and curious when we are young kids; the world is a wide open Pandora’s Box of goodies (and baddies) – my children are forever asking me weird and wonderful questions: How does thunder work? Why does the cloud up in the sky sometimes appear near the ground?  I try my best not to make up stuff on the fly to appease them.  I’ll look it up if necessary, but it doesn’t stop there because then you try to provide an explanation and that’s pretty complex in its own right – it’s even harder trying to distill it into manageable information that can be understood by a young brain.

As we grow up, I feel we get less curious. We take a lot for granted, like the thunder and the fog, our perspective becomes blinkered its as if all that stuff in the big wide world is just too much for us to cope with and so we narrow things down. Our inner questioner switches off and we end up going on auto pilot.

I love watching my kids explore the world around them – they marvel at so many things that I usually take for granted, but as I’m very much a kid at heart I quickly assimilate into their exciting worlds and it ignites my curious and awe-struck nature.

This kid-like feeling has recently been ignited through a recent mission I embarked on  – to completely revamp a legacy course we had on exploratory testing. I have been a ‘tester’ all my life really, but a professional one for the past 18 years. I have always considered myself to be a naturally adept, thoughtful and insightful tester but when I paired up with a wise old testing work colleague based in another state, we ended up challenging each others assumptions and opening up new worlds with our different perspectives. The experience has been rejuvenating and I can say that I’ve really learned a lot; through the process of thinking about thinking, and using pictures and models to explain complex ideas and coming up with techniques that help me ask a raft of pertinent questions that I’d never have thought of asking.

The course has been finalised and it really ticks all the boxes from my perspective – highly practical – and filled with value – for a one day offering it will really challenge the way you think about the testing craft and give you plenty of ideas about how to implement ‘exploratory’ testing/thinking within your organisation. It's a project  I'm really proud of and I am really excited about passing on the learning.

Diagram of the exploratory testing journey


Post by Toby Thompson