Agile Testing Days: Structures Kill Testing Creativity

At the Agile Testing Days Rob Lambert presented on how Structures kill testing creativity.

Rob Lambert explained what struck him about Agile teams. He explained that he came to the conclusion that Agile teams posses a high level of creativity because they value exploration, originality, adapting and learning as well as playfulness.

Lambert explained that it’s hard in the UK to get a job in the IT if you don’t have an academic degree or education. He explained four types of intelligence: academic, creative, practical, and emotional. Lambert told a story from a friend, who had multiple degrees in academic, but failed in creative intelligence.

Lambert defined creativity not to consist of having a really great idea, that’s imagination. Creativity incorporates playfulness, originality, and other related thoughts. Creativity has a lot to do with brains. He explained the differences between the right and the left half of the brain. Expertise, Motivation and Imagination together form creativity. Lambert bridged the gap even to craftsmanship, which values all of these. Since software development requires lots of problem solving, it also requires lots of creativity when it comes to testing.

Lambert introduced the point for extensive structure and what it has to do with creativity. We need certainly structure, but enough of it. Lambert asked the audience to draw the person next to each other in 30 seconds. In order to share creative ideas, we self edit, but we are shy and feel embarrassed. In excessive structured environment sharing creative ideas becomes very hard. Best practices result in avoidance of better ways . Lambert said that it’s ridiculous to have people talk about issues through tools like a bug tracking system. When people get treated as resources, the human element gets lost. Having long feedback loops is another result of excessive structure. All this structure together leads to an environment of fear after all.

Lambert painted a future picture with just enough structure, so that creative and structure can co-exist. There are no best practices, but instead rely on relative judgment. No longer having a separation of development and testing helps to bring in creativity as well. Empowering the team to take the actions necessary to overcome the problems at hand is another point. Craftspeople are also part of that same picture. Putting it all together, it’s basically that you get the Agile Manifesto reflected in this picture of the future.

Lambert challenged the audience to come up with a ten step test case for a login requirement of a welcome page as it may be found on the internet. The responses this resulted in were tricking the system, having just aligned themselves to the ten steps requirement. This excessive structure hindered creativity. He reported from a company, where testers were asked to execute ten tests per tester per day filed by a machine, the test badgerer. Surely this kills creativity in software testing.

Lambert told the story of Marlena Compton who moved the way to Australia to find out how creative she may get at a new company which don’t has excessive structures in place. Lambert cited Isaac Asimov, that self-ediucation is the only form of education in place. He reported from Trish Koo’s story, that everything in their company is about people and caring for them. Pradeep Soundararajan also started to film how they tested in order to get insights into creative ways to improve that. Trying to answer what enough structure for testing is, he explained that this is hard to answer. Too much structure and scripted thinking prevent creativity, so a Lean approach also helps with creativity.

Agile is not a silver bullet, but it’s more a pursuit. The pursuit game of Agile includes several practices, and you better want to have them all. Unfortunately 99% of the teams trying Agile in the last year failed, so the graph of Agile started already to drop down. Trying to answer the question where the future of Agile might go, he brought in the topic of certification. Certification is not in direct relation to someone being good at something. Quantifying also does not help in this regard, either.

In summary, moving to Agile does not yield in creativity by no means. But by relying on the principles like openness, honest, learning, craftsmanship and empowerment of people, may help bring creativity to your team.

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3 thoughts on “Agile Testing Days: Structures Kill Testing Creativity”

  1. Thanks for the regular blog updates during the day, Markus. Really helps those of us who aren’t there get a feel for what’s happening at the Conference. It sounds like the talks today have been really good.


  2. I think it was a good presentation from Rob he brought in lots of good ideas to the creative skills context. There is lot to think about from his message, digest and then apply to real scenarios. He is right in saying that certification without creativity has no value and that may be the key message to take home.

  3. Great post, Markus. Thank you for pointing out how important it can be to honest and open to learning in the team environment. We have a community for IM professionals ( that discusses related topics and we have bookmarked this post for our users. Looking forward to reading more of your work and sharing with our community.

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