How I Learned to Be a Better Tester Through Practising Humble Inquiry

W18     Start Time : 16:00     End Time : 16:45

Talk Abstract:

I wanted to become a better tester, so I asked myself three questions:
1) Am I prepared to be vulnerable?
2) Am I committed to being genuinely curious?
3) Am I willing to be empathetic?

These three skills are the core of Humble Inquiry, and by practising them, I have become a better tester. Humble Inquiry, a technique defined by Edgar Schein, is “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person”.

In my talk, I’ll share my story of learning this technique, teach people how to use it, and inspire people to use it to become better testers. My talk has three components:

~Being Vulnerable~
I’ll talk about:
• Why I can find it so hard to be vulnerable
• Examples of me failing to achieve my goals because I refused to be vulnerable and ask for help (e.g. Refusing other people’s help when testing an unfamiliar part of a product, despite not knowing what was going on)
• How I learned to use the technique of Here-and-now Humility (recognising that I am dependent on somebody else at this moment to achieve my goals) to overcome the fear of being vulnerable (with worked examples)

~Being Curious~
I’ll talk about:
• Why I can find it hard to be genuinely curious
• Examples of poor exploratory testing I’ve done due to a lack of curiosity (e.g. falling prey to Confirmation Bias when testing familiar areas of a product)
• How I learned to trigger curiosity (with worked examples) by:
– Learning to truly feel that I don’t know the answer
– Learning to truly want to know the answer

~Being Empathetic~
I’ll talk about:
• Why I don’t always respond with empathy when confronted with problems
• Examples of me alienating teammates due to a lack of empathy (e.g. people refusing to fix bugs because my bug reports weren’t empathetic)
• How I learned to use “non-violent communication” as a default response to problems (with worked examples)

Key Takeaways:

  1. Achieve your testing goals by allowing yourself to be vulnerable
  2. Enhance your exploratory testing by learning to cultivate curiosity
  3. Build better relationships through practising non-violent communication


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    • Speaker

    • Kwesi Peterson - Test Lead, Metaswitch, United Kingdom

      I’m Kwesi, a 24-year-old born and raised in London. Having done a Maths degree at Cambridge, I decided to go into software. I’m currently a Test Lead at Metaswitch, where we produce cloud-native communications software. A typical work week involves a mix of exploratory testing, coaching, managing the delivery of projects, and trying to improve our processes (I’m a firm believer that things can be different!) My interests include rationality, biases, and understanding the psychology of people. I also love playing sport and listening to classical music.