Monday, December 6, 2010

Quick Creativity Exercise

Sometimes we get into a rut. The team's the same for a while. The product's basically the same (sure, new features, but pretty much the same idea). The test strategy's the same. The customers are solving roughly the same problems with it. In other words, you have a stable team working on a mid-life product. In many ways this is a good thing. But it's a rut nonetheless.

As testers, we need to stay away from ruts in our thinking. There is an element of creativity in what we do, dreaming up uses, configurations, combinations, deployment strategies, and whatnot for the product. When the test team is in danger of a rut, I like to do a quick creativity exercise that I call "How Many?" (I'm sure there are other names for it, and it's highly unlikely I invented this, but I don't know who did.)

Here's how it works:
1. pick some small thing in an area you all know well
2. ask the team "how many ways can you accomplish this small thing?"
3. give everyone 5-15 minutes to brainstorm. Actually trying it is optional; the point is creativity, not necessarily that it would actually work.
4. compare notes
5. the person with the most things wins a small prize. We tend to put a congratulations message on that person's whiteboard or something (doesn't have to cost money or be a physical prize).

For example, we did one recently that was:
How many ways can you think of that a file might be removed from a perforce change?

Example answers:
  • the person owning the change deletes it from the file list
  • in doing a p4 resolve, the person might choose to skip the file
  • a trigger on submit might find a problem with that file and remove only it from the change (this, by the way, wouldn't be desirable, but it's possible)
  • the file might never have gotten added to the change in the first place
The game doesn't have to be about your product directly. (Hint: I'm not on a team that builds Perforce. We just use it for source code management) It should be about something work-relevant, though: your product, your tools, your customer's environment, etc.

If you're worried about a rut, give it a shot. Just a few minutes of explicit creativity can make a difference across tasks.

1 comment:

  1. good post. Love your idea.. I might try it with my team. Encourages creative thinking.