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Be in a Flow. Test Brilliantly.

T Ashok (@ash_thiru on Twitter)


Good testing is a great combination of intellect, techniques, process and heuristics.  What does it take to do brilliant testing ? It requires one to be immersed in the act, be focussed yet unbounded, be keenly observant but non-judgemental, with outcome that are beautiful, the activity so joyful that time stops. A state of flow. What does it take to get there?

As engineers we use good techniques, tools, process and intellect to do things well. So how can we do far better, that is brilliantly? Having possibly exhausted all things “external”, in terms of tools, techniques, process and intellect, it is time we considered the huge “internal” potential that we all possess.

It is about going beyond the intellectual mind, deeper into the sub-conscious to harness the infinite potential.  A good start for this would be get into a state of ‘flow’.

So, what is FLOW?
Flow is the state when you are immersed in what you are doing, where you are totally mindful. It is when all energies are harnessed fluidly to do brilliant work without tiring or trying hard, becoming an observer, fine tuning actions with extreme agility, when time seems frozen. It is when you accomplish a lot, doing work effortlessly and experiencing absolute joy. 

So how can we get into the state of flow?
When multiple sensory excitations converge harmoniously, there is a good chance of entering that state of flow. What does that mean? It is engaging the various senses well – colours, picture, visual test, mind maps for the eyes, using pen/pencil, paper for the touch, and maybe background music or talking to oneself for ‘engaged hearing’. Note the keyword is ‘harmonious’.

When we stimulate our creative side with interesting visuals, tactile and possibly sound, it activates us to get into an ‘engaged state, a state of mindfulness. 

Exploit visual thinking by using visual text , sketch maps, mind maps  to : (1) enable  deeper understand the system under test (2) to sketch test strategy (3) jot down test ideas (4) note down observations, questions, suggestions (5) list scenarios (6) record issues.

Exploit the tactile sense by using pen/pencil on paper or finger/stylus on tablet instead of keyboard.  The objective is to be write/draw freely rather than be constrained by the keyboard. 

If you want to engage your auditory sense, quietly talking to yourself, melodious quiet whistling or if you are music person, then a suitable background song played could enable you to get into the flow. 

To ensure that we can perform in the state of peak performance being in a FLOW, it is imperative that we do testing in short sessions. A session may be anywhere between 45-90 minutes. The key is to stay focussed, setup an objective at the start of session and then engage as stated earlier to get into a state of FLOW.

How does this help?
When we are fully engaged,  in a state of FLOW,  it is no more about just left brain centred logical/deductive thinking, or the creative right. It is an expansive multi dimensional thinking brought about by the harmonious stimuli enabling one to become a keen observer and absorb deeply and rapidly. This is when we exploit the infinite power of what we possess, delving into the sub-conscious which is much larger that conscious mind. Interesting questions pop up,  ideas germinate rapidly, actions are done quickly, smallest observations captured resulting in brilliant effective testing.

In closing
Test automation allows us to do more, and machine intelligence to do better. It is now necessary for us to delve deeper so that we complement the machine rather than compete, enabling us to be super efficient and effective by being smarter. Get into the state of flow to harness the power of sub-conscious to do brilliant testing.

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