Blog

Focus is a paradox. Interview with Zeger Van Hese. Part 2

If you are trying to solve complex problems, you need to give yourself a real break. Whenever creative thinking is needed, our mind performs the best when we’re defocused.
19 February 2015
Interviews
The article by a1qa
a1qa

Read the first part of the interview here.

a1qa: Let`s oppose sketchnoting to “usual” notes. What makes sketchnoting so appealing to you? How can sketchnotes help with meetings, workshops, conferences?

Zeger Van Hese: I am notoriously bad at writing quickly – my handwriting doesn’t not really allow that. When I do try to write as quickly as I can, the result is less than legible. Written notes just don’t do it for me during something fast-paced like presentations or meetings. When my friend Ruud Cox introduced me to sketchnotes a couple of years ago – something he is really good at – I had to give it a try.

Sketchnotes have many advantages for me: the focus is more on central ideas and concepts, and I can draw concepts much faster than I can write out entire sentences. Drawing keeps my brain engaged during the whole presentation, where my attention would wander quickly otherwise. A drawback is that I am totally drained after a day of taking notes like that – that’s the price you pay when prolonging your attention span from 15 minutes to 6 hours, I guess. The visual aspect is also great for recall: one quick glance at a sketchnote brings back vivid memories of what was captured. I think that is because you don’t have to read whole passages of text to get what it’s about, while pictures are like a fast pass into your brain. Sketchnotes also have a great social aspect: a quick snapshot makes them sharable, and people at conferences seem to appreciate these visual summaries.

a1qa: being a regular speaker at conferences (Eurostar, StarEast…), you often talk about managing the focus while testing. Is it about tricks or management policy?

Zeger Van Hese: Finding focus in these busy times is a hot topic that seems to hit home with many. There are quite some tricks to do focused work: the (10+2)*5 procrastination hack, for instance – ideal when working on logical, easily divisible tasks. Neil Fiore also has some good pointers on focusing and dealing with procrastination in his book “The Now Habit“. Focusing is important of course, but in my talk “Testing in the age of distraction – the importance of (de)focus in testing“, I make clear that it’s not only about focusing – defocusing is equally important. Focus is a paradox – it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they are like the yin and yang of consciousness.

This is something that managers still have a hard time grasping: people always assume that you get more done when you are consciously paying attention to a problem. After all, that’s what it means to be “working on something”. But if you are trying to solve complex problems, you need to give yourself a real break. Whenever creative thinking is needed, our mind performs the best when we’re defocused.

When I ask people when or where they get their best ideas, similar answers come up. Most people will tell me “in the shower”, “in the car”, “while running”, “while walking in nature”, “when thinking about other stuff”. This came as no surprise, since I have gotten my best ideas either when running or during long commutes in the car. The thing is: ideas typically don’t occur when we are focused on tasks. They happen when the mind starts wandering. You could say that mind-wandering promotes creativity: it is the perfect condition for creative thought.

A lot of people look down upon defocusing, thinking that staying focused is the only way to get things done. But if you look at professional athletes, you will notice that rest days are an explicit part of their training programs. An athlete’s body absolutely needs to recuperate and recover in order to come out stronger. Everyone accepts that athletes rest their bodies, since they are in such a physical line of work. Is it such a crazy idea that testers, as knowledge workers, plan for rest as well to let our brains recuperate and to rejuvenate our thinking?

To put this in a testing context: we need defocus as much as we need focus. To test effectively, we need to be able to switch between different thinking styles: creative and critical thinking. To think critically, we need to be focused. To think creatively, we need to embrace defocus. Being able to manage your focus is a key skill in software testing.

 Zeger thanks for sharing your views and ideas. We hope to talk to you again.

Reach Zeger on Twitter and read his blog

More Posts

10 March 2020,
by a1qa
6 min read
Dedicated team model in QA: all you should know about it
Check on everything you should know about when to apply, how to run and pay for a dedicated team in QA.
Interviews
QA consulting
Quality assurance
30 September 2019,
by a1qa
4 min read
“Every team member is responsible for software quality”: interview with Head of QA at worldwide media resource
We continue talking about unsurpassed software quality. Consider how to make QA more efficient using shift-left and continuous testing.
Interviews
8 December 2017,
by a1qa
4 min read
a1qa: one-stop shop for first-rate QA services
Dmitry Tishchenko, Head of a1qa Marketing and Pre-Sales Department, answers the questions of The Technology Headlines. 
Interviews
Quality assurance
17 August 2017,
by a1qa
4 min read
From requirements specification to complex business analysis: interview with a1qa head of BA
Check how we at a1qa converge business knowledge with IT skills to deliver maximum value. 
Interviews
QA consulting
1 August 2017,
by a1qa
4 min read
Interview with head of a1qa test automation center of excellence
Dmitry Bogatko on how to manage the in-house Center of Excellence delivering value to the company's projects. 
Interviews
Test automation
19 August 2016,
by a1qa
4 min read
Interview with Adam Knight: Big Data exploratory testing
It is not so much to say that I find exploratory testing necessary. Rather I would say that I found it in my experience to be the most effective approach available to me in testing the business intelligence systems that I have.
Big data testing
Interviews
5 August 2016,
by a1qa
5 min read
Interview with Adam Knight: how much of a Sisyphean task is in software testing?
I’m a great believer in automation. I don’t believe that an agile approach to development is possible without some level of test automation. The use of such approaches does, however, need to be combined with an appreciation of the information that the automation provides you with.
Interviews
Test automation
20 July 2016,
by a1qa
4 min read
Good testing is about asking right questions: Intereview with Thanh Huynh
Software testing is not just to confirm things, it’s a process to explore, exercise the system to discover potential problems. You can achieve that by asking good questions to the system under test, yourself, your customers, your product owner, your manager, your colleagues, etc.
Interviews
20 June 2016,
by a1qa
5 min read
Interview with Lisa Crispin: whole-team approach to quality
To succeed with delivering valuable software over the long term, the whole team must take responsibility for quality, planning and executing testing activities. Our mindset has to shift from finding bugs after coding to preventing bugs from occurring in the first place.
Agile
Interviews

Get in touch

Please fill in the required field.
Email address seems invalid.
Please fill in the required field.
We use cookies on our website to improve its functionality and to enhance your user experience. We also use cookies for analytics. If you continue to browse this website, we will assume you agree that we can place cookies on your device. For more details, please read our Privacy and Cookies Policy.