Most testers have experienced the problem of needing to break testing mindsets to generate new testing ideas to fulfill and go beyond the written requirements to challenge how we test. Mindsets are basically traps we fall into such as getting into the habit of testing the same keystrokes and looking at problems through the same thought process. Making bad assumptions is another trap that can stop the tester from asking additional questions or approaching the problem differently.
Such as assuming something is not important to the client because it is a small feature. Over time, mindsets can become roadblocks to testing as we find less bugs believing the product is becoming more stable when in reality there are still bugs but we are not finding them. There are many ways to challenge how to approach a testing problem and this article will address a few of them.

Identify Learning Buckets

Learn from missed bugs or new features not tested correctly to develop lessons learned to understand how the feature could have been tested and how that information might have been identified during testing. It is helpful to segment this information into personalized learning buckets. For example: training on the company’s product; knowledge on how the customer uses the product; deeper relationships with stakeholders; and problem‐solving skills. Also identify the type of assumptions being made during testing. Through these learning buckets, identify strategies to improve testing  skills in order to start removing testing roadblocks.

Product Training

It may not be possible to learn everything about the product; therefore, identify the subject‐matter experts that can review the testing strategy to determine if anything is missing. Prior to meeting with the subject‐matter expert, gather and review any requirement documents, training material, or other documentation provided to test the feature to outline testing ideas and questions. This can help bridge both product and customer knowledge which can be brought into testing.

Challenge Assumptions

Difference in the groupTry to identify the assumptions being made and then challenge those assumptions to determine if the testing approaches changes. Do the assumptions have a pattern? For example, assuming a feature is not important because no one indicated its importance. Assumptions can become dangerous traps and over time may be filed away and not addressed during testing. For example, not having the correct test data to perform specific tests may have been acceptable in the past but as the feature evolves that assumption may no longer be correct. Identify old assumptions that no longer apply because the product or customer needs have changed. Whenever making an assumption, stop to identify the facts that support the assumption to determine if additional information or communication is required. When in doubt have a conversation with someone (ie., subject‐matter expert, developer) to review concerns and questions.

Think Outside the Testing Box

Identify what prevents or limits testing ideas and strategies. For example, a requirement document can be helpful in understanding intended functionality; however, how does this document limit testing? Is this document being used as a checklist to perform testing within the box or is it being used to foster conversations with subject‐matter experts on intended functionality to generate testing ideas that go beyond the written documentation. When reviewing the learning buckets, is one of them: “I did not test that because it was not in the requirement document.” If the answer is yes, then the requirement document is becoming a roadblock in generating testing ideas. Is the testing based upon test cases that are providing diminishing‐ returns? If test cases are required, how can they be changed to become more fluid to avoid retesting the same key strokes, parameters, or test data? Consider rewriting test cases into testing ideas providing guidelines but not specific steps to test a feature.

Problem Solving Skills

Play games that require identifying different approaches to solve a problem. It is helpful to play these games with friends to share and compare strategies to identify other ways of thinking through a problem. Identify your typical thinking patterns in these games and understand how others are addressing the same problem differently. What can be learned from these differences to start removing testing barriers?


Learn from every mistake or lost testing opportunity by reflecting upon what could have been done differently to identify personalized learning buckets. Use this information to determine areas for improvement to incorporate new ways of testing to start breaking testing mindsets. Develop relationships with stakeholders to delve more deeply into the testing assignment to ask more questions and identify different ways to test. Continue to think outside the box by identifying what constrains or limits testing. Most importantly, always keep learning; challenge your skills; never become complacent as a tester; and keep having fun! Niel RuhlandArticlesTesting ArticleMost testers have experienced the problem of needing to break testing mindsets to generate new testing ideas to fulfill and go beyond the written requirements to challenge how we test. Mindsets are basically traps we fall into such as getting into the habit of testing the same keystrokes and...
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Bernice Niel Ruhland

Bernice Niel Ruhland is a Software Testing Manager with more than 20-years experience in testing strategies and execution, developing testing frameworks, performing data validation, and financial programming. She uses social media to connect with other testers to understand the testing approaches adopted by them to challenge her own testing skills and approaches. When not exploring the testing world, Bernice enjoys cooking and spending time with her husband living a health-conscious lifestyle. The opinions of this article are her own and not reflective of the company she is employed. Apart from other activities she regularly contributes to Testing Circus Magazine.

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