Of course software testing can become emotional. Who among us hasn’t gotten frustrated by a particularly stubborn fix – or felt the elation of finally finishing a difficult project?

However, these experiences are usually unpredictable. We become overwhelmed and caught off guard by our emotions.

But according to Edward de Bono, there are times when we must deliberately tap into the intuitive or passionate portions of our brain. In his seminal book Six Thinking Hats, de Bono outlines 6 complementary cognitive styles one should adopt in project management. And one of those approaches involves using emotional thinking to understand potential opportunities and challenges.

We’ve already looked at the first 2 cognitive approaches in previous articles:

  • When wearing the Blue Managerial Hat, team members focus on the ultimate goal of the project. What is the subject – and why are we here?
  • When wearing the White Informational Hat, team members assess what they already know and what they still need to find out.

Today, we’ll look at what happens when you put on the Emotional Red Hat.

Red Software Testing Defined

With Red cognitive thinking, you rely on pure intuition and immediate gut reactions. The process is strictly emotional – devoid of any attempts to logically justify why you feel the way you do. Coming up with explanations at this stage doesn’t help move the process forward (there are other Hats for that purpose).

For some software testers, letting go can be difficult. We’re analytical by nature and desperately want to understand the inner-workings of whatever problems we confront. Speaking in the language of “feelings” may seem like a foreign concept.

But there are important advantages of tapping into these emotions.

Let’s take a look.

Red Hat Applications in Software Testing

How does the project make you feel? When you ask this question, you open up your mind to potential pitfalls and hidden opportunities. These are not always things that you’ll uncover with deliberate scanning. Rather, Red Hat thinking allows you to call upon your gut instincts. There’ll be a nagging feeling or itch that you can’t exactly articulate – but you know it’s there.

That itch could be something as simple as a personality conflict with one of your team members. Or perhaps you feel that the developers keep messing up the GUI. Or maybe you suspect that the product will never be ready for prime time.

No proof is required to justify these feelings. But you’ll have those feelings nonetheless.

Wait! How is any of this beneficial?

Why Red Emotional Thinking Matters

Red Hat thinking encourages you to conduct tests that you might not otherwise try. You start the process according to what you feel is wrong. You’re letting intuition be your guide – rather than relying on rigid, predefined steps.

As a methodology, exploratory testing is extremely conducive to this Red Hat philosophy. The process is very intuition-driven. But if you ever get stuck, a good rule of thumb is to think like the end-user. See the product through his or her eyes:

  • Focus on aesthetics, usability, and benefits.
  • Will the end-user enjoy using this product?
  • Are there any aspects that could result in unforeseen frustration?

Don’t underestimate the importance of this exercise. History is full of products that ultimately failed – even though they delivered exactly as promised. Having a fully functional prototype isn’t enough. The end-user can still develop very negative feelings about using your product. And given how unforgiving the market is, you may never have an opportunity to make a second 1st impression.

What If the Nagging Feeling Persists?

Red Hat thinking isn’t a standalone solution. It complements the other 5 Hats in de Bono’s framework. And you don’t necessarily need to come up with a workaround at this stage. In fact, de Bono himself recommends devoting only limited resources to Red Hat analysis.

When you’re ready to articulate and hopefully fix whatever is wrong, it’s time to put on the Black Hat. As we’ll discuss in next month’s article, Black cognitive thinking provides a more analytical approach to problem-solving.