It all started while talking about parenting…
I had a short chat with James Bach the other day. We didn’t talk about testing, certifications or software development; we talked about the challenges of being a good father, a more challenging task than any software project I’ve ever seen.
After that I tweeted with James and he sent me a very encouraging message saying (don’t remember the exact words but along the lines of) that he thought I would be a good father since I was self-critical.
The term SELF-CRITICAL got me thinking.
I started by analyzing how my self-criticism has helped me in almost every aspect of my adult and professional life. Then I looked at the people around me, and realized that I was (and still am) able to work and communicate better with those in my environment who are able to auto-evaluate themselves and accept criticism more openly.
My conclusion was that the most valuable asset a self-critical person brings into a relationship is his ability to improve it by dynamically learning from the wins and losses, and evolving as the circumstances continue to change all around us.
What does this has to do with Testing?!
Well, the trivial answer is that it has EVERYTHING to do with testing!
The tester is the player in the development team that needs this quality more than anyone else. The main reasons for this being that:
1. Testing is a constant-learning activity. As you run your tests, you analyze the result and evaluate them in light of your previous assumptions, in order to modify and even re-determine your testing path(/s). The only way to do this effectively is if you are constantly open to self learning and ready to throw away your previous assumptions based on the feedback you get.
2. You will never be able to provide good and deep criticism to the people around you if you are not able to accept such feedback yourself.
The most brilliant testers I’ve worked with share at least one common trait: they’re happy to learn from their mistakes, and are always willing to learn from what others tell them about what they were doing wrong and how to do it better. Once you start accepting criticism freely you develop the ability not only to give and accept it from others, but also to give it to yourself and get it by constantly questioning if you are doing the right things.
So what is self-criticism?
It is the realization you are not expected to be perfect, since apparently no one is.
It is also the “permission” to make mistakes and errors in fair judgment, as long as you are willing to learn from them in order to make a better future.
It doesn’t mean that there are no consequences to your mistakes, but that these consequences don’t mean you cannot correct your actions the next time you have a chance to do it right.
Going back to raising kids, self-criticism might be the most important instinct we posses and one of the things we need to help develop in our kids; it is the principle that allows us to learn to walk by letting go, falling down and trying it again, realizing that falling-down doesn’t really matter in the long run.