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3 Practical Takeaways from Playing the Dice Game (Road Less Tested)

On July 12, 2013, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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Last weekend (5-6/07/13) I attended KSWT3, the third Kiwi Workshop in Software Testing. It was an amazing experience to have 19 talented and passionate testers CONFerring together. There were so many take aways from those two action packed days, I have material to write a few blogs (and I will). Somehow the Dice Game takeaways were at the forefront of my mind, so my first KSWT3 blog post will be about that.

SmallDiceThis was my first time playing the Dice game. I had heard about it many times, so I was really glad when it was announced that after lunch we would have a chance to play it. Richard Robinson was the facilitator and I had two team mates sharing this momentous occasion with me: Jennifer Hurrell and Erin Donnell.

Games, puzzles and challenges are a staple in any good software testing conference, especially peer-conferences such as KWST. Maybe because it is such a great way to practice critical thinking skills, lateral thinking and (especially for me in this case) to get us out of our comfort zone – all very relevant testing skills.

I will not go into the detail about what the game is or how to play it, because if you are reading this blog chances are you are a tester, and if so you either know the dice game or, in the case you don’t, you should find someone that can play it with you. I’m not going to spoil the fun!

What I AM going talk about are the three life skills I learned from playing it, which relates to other games and challenges also. Overall, I learned much more than just to play the Dice Game during that session. I learned the power of harnessed frustration, the hinderance of perfectionism and the benefit of team work.

The Power of Harnessed Frustration

I can’t deny, the Dice Game frustrated me. I sat there trying to work it out, and tho in the begining it was fun, after some time trying to figure it out I was ready to throw that pile of dice as far as I could!

Frustration is an emotion us testers know well. It is a powerful emotion and we can let all that energy go to waste or we can let it be a trigger to do something about the situation. For example, when we feel frustrated it is a great time to defocus. I found out that I can focus really well, and sometimes when I focus too much I can get tunnel vision, so I’m now consciously defocusing especially at work, but also in other situation too. Next time frustration hits, I’ll remember it as a trigger to defocus, stand back and see the bigger picture.

Anne Marie Charrett has a great post about defocussing if you want to read more.

The Hinderance of Perfectionism

I am a competitive perfectionist, which at times can be a good thing, but sometimes it can also be a hindrance. In this case it was a hindrance because I wanted to crack the game, I wanted to beat it, I didn’t want to fail, and that added to the frustration. Soon this became a cycle, the more I wanted to crack the game the more frustrated I became, which made me want to crack the game more, which made me more frustrated… Well you get the picture.

Perfectionists know that tho it is often a good thing to want things done well, to want to excel in what you do, however we must also remember that to try to achieve perfection in any project (especially in testing) is not an achievable goal. A more achievable goal is to strive to be a skilled and professional tester instead, one who is always learning and becoming better.

The Benefit of Team Work

I had the benefit (and pleasure) to play the dice game in a team of three. We decided in the beginning that we were going to play together, instead of against each other. Hence we were ‘thinking out loud’ throughout the game and as we took turns rolling the dice we also explained why we were doing what we were doing.

I found that playing it in a team setting certainly made it more fun, and I have no doubt that we found the answer within 30 minutes only because we were sharing our thoughts and feeding off each other’s ideas. It was a true example of when 2+2=5.

That is also true in testing. I find that testing in a team where we are openly sharing ideas, collaborating and using team work doesn’t only make testing more fun, but it is also much more productive as we leverage of each other’s strengths. As Kaner and Bach stated in Testing in Pairs:

“Based on our (and others’) observations of effective testing workgroups at several companies. We noticed several instances of high productivity, high creativity work that involved testers grouping together to analyze a product or to scheme through a test or to run a series of tests. We also saw/used it as an effective training technique”

I am definitely adding more pair testing to my daily testing routine, be it testing with another tester or even pairing with a developer, creativity and ideas can flow more freely when we join together with other brilliant minds!

So all in all it was a great experience to play the dice game. I learned life skills that I have been using since and am looking forward to keep using them and getting better at them also.

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