Last week I was sitting with my daughter as she did her maths homework. She was struggling to work out 6x5. I was doing something else but soon realized that she needed a bit more attention to solving the problem. I reminded her that she knew that 5x5=25, but she couldn’t quite make the jump to the right answer.
Then we started from scratch by going through the five times tables beginning in 1 x 5 = 5; just then her little brother quietly said ‘Why don’t you look at the clock?’
As I looked up at the clock I couldn’t help saying out-loud ‘You are a genius!’ I jumped up and took the clock down from the shelf and showed it to my daughter. Within a few seconds, she was able to use her knowledge of telling the time to do the multiplications. She looked at the 6 and knew straight away that this is 30 minutes past, so the answer must be 30!
Because this was the first time I had needed to explain simple multiplication to a child, I had never thought that the clock would demonstrate this so beautifully. The simplicity of the problem meant that I hadn’t found a creative way to lead my daughter to the right answer. The spark of creativity had been missing.
Since I’m a tester, the following thought was to reverse engineer what my son had just said. Why or how had he said this in the first place?
It seemed like he knew the answer to a problem that seemed to be way out of his current reach of knowledge. None the less, he brought it up at a perfect time.
When he tried to explain it, it became clear that he wasn’t able to articulate the logic behind his idea. It was almost as if he hadn’t realized the connection between the five times tables and the clock at all.
Too many times I’ve seen this happen to professionals in software testing. At first, tester has a hunch or intuition that something is amiss. Gradually that feeling builds to reveal that juicy bug that had been hiding. But then comes the catch.
Too many testers seem to lack the capacity to articulate their thoughts to colleagues, bosses, and clients. Some can’t even explain it to themselves and move on dismissing the bug they just found.
Children do talk a lot of nonsense, and my son is no exception at this age. But the fact is, they are always thinking and questioning — more than we realize.
Those voiced questions are their way to practice articulating the hunches. And more importantly, that habit sparks the thoughts of others, leading to new trails of discussion and learning experiences.
I like to consider this a manifestation of the hive mind. Ideas mingle in the mind that we share. By learning to articulate our thoughts in writing and speaking, we level up the problem-solving abilities of our team.
This is a skill easy to practice. If you don’t know where to start, here is an example.
Take out a journal and document a description of how you feel right know. Then use a few bullets to explain why you feel like you do.