Recently I discovered that there is a relation between Cynefin’s domains and the Greek Square, a square formed by the four fundamental human values; the true, the just, the beautiful, and the good.
This became clear to me when I was thinking about values governing and shaping our actions in the domains.
In the obvious domain, truth is the governor. What else could shape action in that domain than a desire for truth, fact, and sticking to those facts?
In the complicated, justice shapes actions, as this is where we ask others for help and seek knowledge, which always needs justification in the social. It is okay letting solutions on complicated problems rely on knowledge bases, past solutions to similar problems, and expertise.
The value that shapes my actions in complexity seems to be beauty. Dijkstra said, “beauty is our business” when he described programming. Creative and aesthetic leadership are tightly connected. Some philosophers have described the sense of beauty as a taste. In that case, the thing that keeps me going is the hope for good taste. And good taste is not just good, it is something with aesthetic value.
In chaos, we need to stay grounded, but act on our toes. A desire to do good is the only thing capable of grounding us in chaos, and this is where ultimately gut feelings (gut etymologically has the same root as good, and even God), and intuition are what I can rely on.
(I put freedom in the middle in my sketch below. This was inspired by Ole Fogh Kirkeby, who connects the four fundamental human values with human freedom. Whether it fits Cynefin, I’m not sure.)
Christmas is almost over and while I am still having holiday with the family, I’m beginning to think a bit about testing again.
I am passionate about software testing.
There is a lot of talk about passion, but do we know what passion is?
The word shares roots with the greek ‘pathos’, which is one of the three key components of persuasion in rhetoric. The other two are ethos and logos.
Good communication should be fact based (logos) and serve a common greater good (ethos), but passion adds something important to communication.
The passionate lecturer
I remember two math lecturers from university. One taught analytical algebra, the other graph theory and combinatorics.
Both were personalities of the type you would notice if you saw them in the street, but if someone would then whisper to you: “He is an associate professor in mathemathics”, you would exclaim “ah!” and understand exactly what you were seeing 🙂
Their style of lecturing was very different, however.
Every lecture in graph-theory and combinatorics was unique. It seemed the lecturer literally reinvented what he was lecturing while he was doing it. He was not particularly organised in his teaching, sometimes he would even forget the subject, and divert off a wrong ‘graph’ (sic!). But he had passion for the subjects, and that showed. The lectures were often very engaging and fascinating.
The other lecturer prepared his lectures to perfection: He always started on the exact minute putting his chalk to the board in the top left corner of the first of the six large black boards in the auditorium, and by the end of the 90th minute, he would finish writing formula in the last available spot of the lower right corner of the last board. He repeated that time after time. A fascinating performance. But there was a problem, as he had obviously lost passion for the subject he was teaching. I felt bored to death during his lectures, and I am not sure I ever passed that exam.
Some testers are passionate about what they do, others try to be perfect. I always prefer passion over perfection.
Suffering by Passion
Passion is one of those tacit capabilities we know by heart, but will probably never be able to code, teach to a neural network, or explain to someone who has never experienced it.
Passion: late 12c., “sufferings of Christ on the Cross,” from Old French passion “Christ’s passion, physical suffering” (10c.), from Late Latin passionem (nominative passio) “suffering, enduring,” from past participle stem of Latin pati “to suffer, endure,” possibly from PIE root *pe(i)- “to hurt” (see fiend).
The article even goes on linking passion to sufferings of martyrs.
Let me confess now: While I am very passionate about good testing, I am not going to become a testing martyr.
Words change meaning over time and passion is certainly a word that has become more of a daily language term than it probably was back in the late 12th century.
Today, linking passion to sufferings, even physical sufferings, may seem out context.
However, it reminds us that passion does involve trading in some things that I like too: Staying relaxed, calm and cool, for example.
I am neither of those things when I am feeling passionate.
Passion seems to be a kind of double-edged sword.
I am always more tired after working passionately on a testing problem than when I’m doing more trivial things in my job: E.g. diligently replying to e-mails, writing factual test reports, checking out plans and schedules.
Could there be something called passion-fatigue? I think so, and when passion is a driver in daily work life, relaxation and recharging is important to stay healthy, sane, and well in the longer run..
The need for Hygge
Now that Christmas has just passed, but I am still enjoying days of holiday with the family, it seems right to mention ‘hygge’ (pronounced “hyk-ge”).
Hygge is Danish for relaxing with others, a good book or in other nice ways.
Hygge is difficult to define. In that way it’s similar to passion, except opposite: Relaxing, calming and mentally soothing.
A day with hygge could be so relaxing and good that it deserve finishing off with a good tequila, scotch, or another good drink of your preference 🙂
What’s interesting here is that hygge seems to be a good cure for passion-fatigue. Hygge creates space for passion.
And this is exactly what ‘Julehygge’ is about: Getting away from daily life, relaxing with family and friends, and recharging.
Some test managers and test consultants are very busy pointing out the right processes, organisational structures and methods to use in software testing.
But no methods, processes and structures can assure great testing. Great testing is created by people.
This quote by Neil Armstrong, which I came across a couple of years ago, is worth remembering whenever we lead people in testing:
“The way […] that made [the Apollo project] different from other sectors of the government to which some people are sometimes properly critical is that this was a project in which everybody involved was, (1) interested, (2) dedicated, and, (3) fascinated by the job they were doing. And whenever you have those ingredients, whether it be government or private industry or a retail store, you’re going to win.”
To me, his message is that as leaders, our aim should be to do whatever we can to make people just that: Interested, dedicated and fascinated by the job we are doing.