Intellectual Curiosity

Recently I had an entire day off unscheduled and unplanned. It was absolutely great. We had a snowstorm and outside was beautiful. Snow is only beautiful if I don’t have to go outside.

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Hanging around the house, I had a couple of experiences that made me think of Elisabeth Hendrickson’s term test obsessed. It’s a good term. And I could see again, how I think like a tester. Testing has affected how I think about everything.

I used the iron and found myself thinking mmm I haven’t used this in awhile. I wonder if the auto shutoff really works. So I left the iron and to see if the feature still works. What a perfect day to check this out I thought. I don’t usually test hardware. Or then is it software inside the device that dictates the shutoff? And how does the device distinguish time? Over time will the device’s clock malfunction and lose track of time? Who tests the timers in home appliances? How do appliance testers test?

When I ran the dishwasher and the sink backed up enough to flood the countertops I was curious why? Is the drain clogged? Is the issue with the drain, the sink, the garbage disposal or the dishwasher? Will this happen on the next wash? I was reminded of James Bach’s dead bee heuristic. Why did the sink flood? I wanted to find the cause. I wanted to see the dead bee.

As I spent the day at home, I found myself checking things out. So what does all this have to do with testing? It answers a question I’ve been asked many times. What is the number one skill I look for when I hire a tester? Curiosity. (Not certification.)

One particular definition of curiosity says it well: curiosity is an interest leading to inquiry, intellectual curiosity.

Technical skills can be taught. And technology changes frequently anyway. (Yes, I recognize technical aptitude can be an issue.) But a curious mind is harder to train into someone.

Testing becomes a way of thinking and once bit by the testing bug it affects how we look at any object or process.

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