Applying Six Thinking Hats to Let’s Test Conference

Recently I’ve been listening a lot of videos, while driving to work, and back from work to home. Among tens of videos I’ve listened, one has rose above others. That video is Julian Harty’s talk from StarWest 2008. The title of the talk is “Six Thinking Hats for Software Testers” and you can watch it here. It’s good to know, that the talk is based on Edward de Bono’s book about Six Thinking Hats.

Wikipedia describes the underlying principle like this:

The premise of the method is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be deliberately challenged, and hence planned for use in a structured way allowing one to develop tactics for thinking about particular issues.

De Bono identifies six distinct directions in which the brain can be challenged. In each of these directions the brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of issues being considered (e.g. gut instinct, pessimistic judgement, neutral facts).

So, you have six hats, which all have different colors, that represent different directions in which the brain can be challenged. It’s good to open up a bit these directions (taken from Wikipedia article, that was referred earlier):

  • Information: (White) – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions (Red) – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Discernment (Black) – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative
  • Optimistic response (Yellow) – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creativity (Green) – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes

You probably noticed, that there is only five directions here. The sixth one is Blue:

Sequences always begin and end with a blue hat; the group agrees together how they will think, then they do the thinking, then they evaluate the outcomes of that thinking and what they should do next.

In his talk, Julian Harty recommended starting also with the Blue hat, then moving on to Yellow, White, Black and Red hats. After those came the Green hat, and finally Blue hat was used for deciding what you should do next.

I’ve listened several times Julian’s talk and wanted to try the method myself. As I am going to Let’s Test conference next week, I thought I could try to apply the Six Thinking Hats to it. I haven’t read the book, so this might be inconsistent with book.

Let’s apply Six Thinking Hats to Let’s Test Conference

blue_hat

  • Testing conference for Context Driven testers.
  • A lot of sessions, tutorials and Test Lab activity. Lots of prioritizing.
  • A lot of skillful and passionate testers.
  • Aiming at giving us opportunities to learn from each other.
  • A bit isolated location, that gives us more opportunities to confer with each other.

yellow_hat

  • Meeting a lot of new people.
  • Becoming a better tester.
  • Learning new skills (e.g. test reporting, python, systems thinking)
  • Enjoying the venue.
  • Being afterward more part of the Context Driven Testing community.
  • I will be seen as a good tester.
  • People remember me afterwards.
  • Gaining more understanding of Context Driven Testing.

red_hat

  • Excitement.
  • Scared.
  • Happiness.
  • Friendship.
  • Socializing.
  • Sadness (when it’s over).
  • Opportunity to grow.

white_hat

  • 3 days
  • 3 keynotes
  • 28 sessions (possible to participate 7 of them, will miss 21 of them)
  • 13 tutorials (possible to participate 1 or 2 of them, will miss 11 or 12 of them)
  • 33 speakers (from which I know in some level – mainly twitter and blogs – 24)
  • 16 hours 40 minutes (sessions, tutorials and keynotes)
  • XX hours XX minutes Test Lab (done during evening activities?)
  • 2 hours 45 minutes in total (breaks)
  • 3 hours (lunches)
  • 4 hours (dinners)
  • 4 hours (evening activities)
  • 7 hours (bar and music)
  • In total:  37 hours 25 minutes + sleeping time + registration + welcome + morning remarks
  • Time to sleep 8 hours, if going to sleep 01:30am

black_hat

  • I will stress too much and become sick, and miss the whole conference.
  • I will drink too much beer and become “that guy who drank to much beer”
  • I will realize, that majority of the people on the conference are bunch of idiots
  • People think I’m an idiot.
  • I will not learn anything.
  • Because of poor notes, I will forget most of the information about the conference.
  • I will make a fool out of myself, by participating into discussions I have no clue about.
  • Weather will be awful.
  • I will focus too much on sessions, talks, tutorials, test lab and therefore miss all the conferring.
  • I will focus too much on conferring and miss all the sessions, talks, tutorials and test lab.

green_hat

  • Gain information about those 21 sessions and 12 tutorials I will miss. Like changing notes, taking pictures of other people’s notes, asking from people about the sessions or reading blogs afterwards.
  • Combine notes with the slides, that are likely published later on.
  • Instead of discussing with people, I will only listen.
  • Use the voice recorder (mobile phone app), where appropriate, and useful.
  • Notes will be taken automatically (Wishful Thinking)
  • I will learn to know everyone, that is attending the conference (Wishful Thinking)
  • Afterwards I can easily return to notes about discussions I’ve had in Let’s Test (Wishful Thinking)

blue_hat

  • Don’t stress too much about the conference. Believe in yourself, and consider it more like a place, where you will meet friends.
  • Take notes, but also reserve time for just listening. Ask in advance if you can get a copy of someone else’s notes, from a session you’re only listening. Consider using a voice recorder, but make sure, that everyone agrees with it.
  • Use a lot opportunities to introduce yourself to others. Don’t let interesting conversations end without knowing, who you were talking with.
  • Store all the notes, links and additional material to for example Evernote, or DropBox.
  • Talk about the conference for your colleagues. This way you need to go through the notes, and you will gain more understanding about the the topic you will talk about.
  • Write a blog post after the conference and try to provide value with it to others. Like concentrate only on conferring or Test Lab.
  • There’s lots of time reserved for breaks, lunches and dinners. Use those for learning to know people, and discussing about testing.
  • Apply things, that you’ve learned at work. Try at least one thing from every session you attended.

Conclusion

Six Thinking Hats can be a powerful method for generating ideas about difficult problems. I found it useful for approaching a problem. I would assume, that involving people with high variety in thinking styles, boosts the outcome of the method. On the other hand it seems to work well on its own.

I need to read the book, to gain more understanding about the method. Otherwise I will definitely use it on the future to testing related problems, and for that matter any problems I will find it being useful.

I also encourage you to try it, and if you have tried it already, let me know your thoughts.

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7 thoughts on “Applying Six Thinking Hats to Let’s Test Conference

  1. Nice post Aleksis – some great thought has gone into it :-)

    I little bit of devils advocacy here: If you apply 6 hats for problem solving, do see you see Lets Test as being a problem, or are there certain aspects of it you see as a problem?

    I used Bono’s 6 hats for a retrospective – as you say, it was great for generating ideas & I felt the model worked well for that retro in particular (some tricky issues need to be addressed). Everyone knew where they stood, & when they could say what they wanted to say, as opposed to talking across each other.

    Finally – have you seen this? (Julian’s article on 6 hats in “Better Software”)
    http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/sqe/bettersoftware_se_201202/#/21

    It probably supports Julian’s talk – I haven’t been fortunate enough to watch it yet.

    Looking forward to catching up with you next week!

    Duncs

    • Hi Duncan,

      Thanks for the feedback. You made a good point by asking about if Let’s Test is a problem.

      I don’t know if the conference can be seen as a problem, but I think the challenge for me is, that how do I get as much value as possible out of the conference. On the other hand, I think the method helped a lot with revealing potential problems, that are related to the subject it’s applied against.

      I wouldn’t have tried the method for Let’s Test, unless there were some concerns about it. These were, as earlier mentioned, related to the value gained out of it. This could be handled, when trying the Blue hat first time. That might be a good step for opening up the issues, we will use the method against.

      I like the idea of applying the Six Thinking Hats to retrospecting the conference!

      (Oh, and I haven’t read the article, thanks for the tip. Need to check it out.)

      I’ll see you next week!

      Regards,

      Aleksis

  2. Nice one :-)
    This comment is both for Aleksis and Duncan – Jerry Weinberg said that a problem is a relationship so the conference or aspects of it can’t be a problem by that definition.
    Aleksis’ view on it can be though as he brings his own thoughts, fears and emotions with it. So his thought process doesn’t actually concentrate on “the thing” but on his relationship with it.
    It’s a fine but important distinction which you may already be aware of – if we take this distinction into work with us we’d often have less stressful environments :-)

    • Hi Thomas,

      I wonder if you’re referring with relationship comment to Weinberg’s definition:

      “A problem is a difference between things as perceived and things as desired.”

      If not, please let me know, where this idea is coming from (e.g. book, blog).

      My experiment concentrated mainly on the potential value gap, between what I will gain from Let’s Test in ideal situation, and on the other hand compared to what I would gain in worst case situation. So, Six Thinking Hats was used to find a way to maximize / optimize the value, I will gain from the conference. I think I should have opened this part more, because I just jumped into brainstorming the ideas with different hats.

      I’m glad, that you brought this up, as it’s certainly good observation. I think it’s also a reminder, that we should have fairly good understanding about the problem, we are trying to approach with the method.

      -Aleksis

  3. Pingback: Passion-Driven Community | Flow of Testing

  4. Pingback: Let’s Taste – The Retrospective | Duncan Nisbet

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