This always occurs to me when engaged in the search for 'good' people to hire. We (as in the technical sphere) tend to hire predominantly on 'skills.' Very rarely do we look for behaviours, even rarer we consider beliefs.
After some consideration (and no little practical finger-burning), starting with skills is often a false position, starting with beliefs can be much more powerful.
The following question always strikes me, when I consider this context. How many testers you know can give you explanation of what they believe the essence of testing is? I know relatively few. In fact, I often received the look of a startled rabbit when I lead with this question. You do it every day, but you can't tell me what you believe it is?
To not be compelling with what you believe testing to be puts you and your chosen vocation at a significant disadvantage when interacting with those who are sceptical about its value. To be not compelling when most reasoning is done for argumentative purposes (to convince, not necessarily to make better decisions) further underpins the disadvantage.
So, when I ask myself the golden question, I begin with this:
'Testing is the skilful exploration of an entity for information about its quality, where quality is value to some person.'
- I believe testing is a skill not 'just an activity';
- I believe testing is exploration, more than it is deterministic;
- I provide information about quality to aid decisions about risk;
- I believe quality is most meaningfully expressed from the point of view of 'some person', who is important in context.
Does it fly? I think so. Well, is there a 'right' answer is a more pertinent question. Perhaps the urge to be 'right' (or the desire not to be seen to be 'wrong') prevents people from venturing their thoughts.
Is it different to the next tester? I hope so. Will it change as I learn and grow. I hope for that too. Does it lift the ideas of others in a way that appeals to me? (Nods to Jerry Weinberg). Damn right.
However, when I discuss testing I have an advantage, I have questioned myself and my beliefs about my vocation and talk in a compelling manner. To be less than sincere with what you believe testing to be is to enter into a struggle which you may well lose more often than not.