By definition, software quality assurance is a highly analytical discipline. As you test and debug different products, you rely more on the left hemisphere of your brain – the side that handles logic.

If there were a color associated with this analytical approach, it would probably be a neutral gray – devoid of any emotional or subjective tone.

And yet, software testing can be a highly optimistic and positive field, with successful testers drawing on the right hemisphere to find harmony within their builds.

If you throw in a healthy dose of pessimism, emotion, information gathering, and managerial insight, you have most of the components needed for Edward de Bono’s unique approach to project management. His 1985 book, Six Thinking Hats, offers a self-supporting framework for team-based product launches. Although originally written for strictly business circles, de Bono’s cognitive thinking strategies apply to a wide range of industries – including software testing.

Thus far, we’ve covered 4 of these thinking styles and how they benefit software quality assurance:

This post explores Yellow Hat thinking and the importance of bringing a little optimism to the table.

Yellow Hat Software Testing Defined

If Black Hat software testing relies on pessimism and problem-spotting, the Yellow Hat allows you to find harmony within the project:

  • What benefits exist but you may have overlooked?
  • How can you improve whatever doesn’t work?
  • Can you isolate the value within the product?

Note that this is mostly exploratory.

Yellow Hat thinking doesn’t require that you evaluate potential proposals or examine competing solutions. You’re simply collecting as many good ideas as you can. It’s okay to casually test feasibility if time permits. But it’s best to treat this stage the way you would a group brainstorming session.

In other words, there are no “bad” ideas. The focus is on positive and constructive feedback that is all future-oriented.

Terrific. But how do you put this into practice?

Yellow Hat Software Testing Applications

When it comes to execution, Yellow Hat thinking most closely resembles the Red Hat. There is no formulaic approach. Every team, every product, and every launch will follow a slightly different path. And collectively, you will use whatever experience and information you have at your disposal in order to generate ideas.

But done correctly, those ideas will beget new ones – again and again and again.

What does “done correctly” mean in this context?

It helps to use a non-software example to illustrate this point.

Imagine an artist painting a still-life portrait. He might move about the room in order to view the subject from different angles. By altering perspectives, the artist discovers new ways of capturing the positivity and underlying value of his subject – ways that would have remained hidden had he stayed stationary.

Applying this to software testing, your team might:

  • Use new or counterintuitive testing methodologies that you wouldn’t normally have considered.
  • Find ways to improve older testing processes by shortening them, streamlining them, doing them in reverse, etc.
  • Isolate ways to reduce testing times or improve overall productivity.
  • Replace or update certain testing tools in order to take advantage of newer features.
  • Bring in team members from outside of the testing department. This is how you transform “inside-the-box” thinking into “outside-the-box” thinking.

The Benefits of Optimistic Software Testing

The most obvious benefit of Yellow Hat thinking is that it allows you to resolve issues discovered during the Black Hat process:

  • Before, you found tons of problems and reasons why it can’t work.
  • Now, you’re isolating potential solutions and reasons why it will work.

Again, the goal isn’t to fully develop these solutions. Rather, you are exploring how these suggestions could improve the testing process (and by extension – the product) in some demonstrable way. And you are also isolating what barriers need to be removed in order to make that positive future a reality.

One Final Thought about Yellow Cognitive Thinking

Constructive optimism is the name of the game. And as such, there is no set time limit for the Yellow Hat. Wear it as long as necessary. And be prepared to revisit this Hat if and when new obstacles emerge (and they most certainly will emerge).

You should also keep in mind that new solutions often create new problems. So you’ll need to sometimes take a step back, put on the Black Hat again, and then dive back into Yellow Hat thinking.

Do this enough times, and your product will be on fairly secure footing. But you’re not out of the woods quite yet. There is still one final cognitive thinking style in de Bono’s framework.

In the next article, we’ll explore the benefits of Green Hat thinking.

Until then, stay tuned.