Ep 80: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story

Manchester is my adoptive city, and I am even more in love with it after this week. Strange to feel pride and be heartbroken at the same time. I was hoping to get a bee tattoo but all the tattoo parlours have been overwhelmed by demand, so I may get one at a later date, and just make a donation to the fund.

Life goes on, and so do we.

I went to an event on Thursday about storytelling called What Makes You, You? I wanted to go to primarily get tips for my other podcast (Inner Pod), and help people come up with their own stories, but I actually found a lot that connected with me on a testing level.

So, testers being story tellers isn’t a new thing, people have spoken about it before (on this podcast even!), Huib Schoots is running a workshop on it at London Tester Gathering workshops etc., but the guy who did the talk/workshop thing (Andrew Thorp) really solidified the crossover between testers and storytelling.

Okay, so firstly, there were parts of this that were a bit wanky. Like the concept of storyselling (selling something using storytelling), but he did admit he usually gave this talk to corporate types who sell things for a living, not for creative types who are looking for a way to either sell themselves to get better at public speaking or interviewing. Overall I found it incredibly useful, and have some pointers in my arsenal when it comes to building a good story and helping people build theirs. If you’re in the area and interested, he’s doing the same talk again on 13th June.

The most common thing I hear when asking people to come on the show is something like ‘I’ve got nothing new to say/I’m not interesting enough’, which firstly is bullshit otherwise why would I be asking you to come on the show? But more importantly, Andrew had 3 principles for having a good story, and they are basically 3 principles for being a good tester.

Hoovering: Hoover up experiences. Not just your own, other people’s as well. Think about observational comedy and how those kinds of comedians can turn something small into something significant. They can see the importance in these things.

Testers should do the same. It’s only in learning about other’s experiences that I, as a web tester, can learn how people interact with the sites and apps they use. It’s as I learn about new technology that I can see how it’ll connect with my job going forward. It’s noticing the small things and the effect they may have that mean testers can catch cases that others may have missed.

Be interested: Being interested is great on many levels. Interested people tend to be interesting. Firstly, interested people tend to do active listening, which is listening where the listener fully concentrates, understands, responds and then remembers what is being said. It’s not reflective listening, where you repeat what the speaker said to drive home shared understanding, and it’s definitely not the false listening I find myself falling into occasionally, when I’m either jumping in to say something and slightly talking over people because I’m excited, or even worse, waiting for someone to stop speaking so you can speak. We all fall into the trap – we think faster than we can speak or listen – but we need to learn to listen.

This is fairly obvious in how it relates to testing, we should be listening to our co-workers, our stakeholders, our clients, everyone. Our job is just as much taking in other people’s stories as it is telling our own. In fact, one of my biggest issues is getting clients to tell us their stories. People know they need a website but often smaller businesses, or more corporate brands may not know what message, what story they are trying to sell.

Be willing to open up the bonnet. Curiosity! Curious people have things to say, and testers are curious people. Not just curious in their work but outside their work as well. Being curious not only facilitates the previous two points but also allows you to craft your own story. If you’re not curious how do you know what excites you, or angers you, or just leaves you apathetic. These, across contexts, will allow you to craft your own story.

I’m giving but a small sliver of my Testbash talk at Liverpool Tester Gathering on 15th June. Come along! https://www.meetup.com/Liverpool-Tester-Gathering/events/240216573/

More links
https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation

Andrew’s free PDF on storytelling/storyselling: http://mojoyourbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/School-of-Mojo-Manifesto-21.03.17.pdf

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