Monday, July 18, 2011

Cross-Pollination or How Talking With Smart People Helps You Learn

I was looking at some of my blog posts over the last 6 or 8 months or so.  That made me wonder so I went back looking at some of my older blog posts.  That made me wonder some more, so I went out looking for blogs from other people I respect.  These people are involved in other groups or go to conferences or, well, just hang out with other testers and tester types. 

I discovered something about myself, and I believe others, that led to this blog post. 

Here's what I learned:  The more you expose yourself to good thinkers and intelligent conversation and engage with them, the more you learn and the more you can learn. 

I can't prove this with any firm science.  What I can do is look at how things have changed since I went out looking for different sources.  I can also see how other people, significant, famous testers, interact and learn from each other. 

I've been fortunate in having the opportunity to go to various conferences the last few years.  This has given me the chance to meet people whose writings I have read and enjoyed and I have learned from.  I also have had the opportunity to meet people whose writings I have read and I disagreed with.  Now, some folks might shake their head and say "They're wrong."  For me, this was an opportunity to understand something I did not understand before.  Possibly, I could learn from that understanding and find something to appreciate and find common ground for future meetings.

What has astounded me, is just how much I have learned and grown from all these meetings.  Ideas I have had for some time and have been trying to formulate have found the form and structure I needed to organize them.  The result has been, among other things, this blog, articles, an inteview, conference presentations.

Do you need to travel all over North America or the world to find the same level of thought provoking conversation?  Hardly.

I bet there are people in your company or your community you can talk with and have the same experience.  I bet there are others in your city or town who are interested in discussing similar things.  Great ideas can come from many sources - not just the famous conference speakers and articles.  They can come from the person in the cube next to you or from someone doing similar work at a different company in your town. 

Want to see if I'm right?  Try an experiment. 

Talk with people at your company about meeting after hours to talk about software and testing.  Then, have those people drop an email to people they know at other companies.  Invite testers, designers, programmers/developers - anyone who works on software.  Then talk.

You don't need a big group, a few people is a good start.  Don't worry about being formal - just try talking with other people with an interest.  Don't worry about being right - instead focus on sharing ideas. 

Thats all.

Try sharing ideas and see what you can learn.  Maybe other people will learn something from you.


  1. I completely agree with you. Engaging with smart people does something to your brain, gives it a shake and makes it say to itself, I want to be seen as smart too so you start to say less and read/listen more. Once you are confident what you have to say is of value, you communications are naturally smarter.

    Conversely the same is true if you continuously engage with lazy, not-smart people who have no interest in self-improvement or putting thought and effort into their communications but perhaps that is a blog post for another day.

  2. Thanks, Eliza! I spent a fair amount of time with people who enjoy the whinge-fest that I really try and avoid the idea if I can. ;) You are right though, if you associate only with people with no drive, ambition or curiosity, you'll end up the same way, no?

  3. With you on this post Peter. To be fair, it's the main method I'm adopting for my learning. I'm using the community to get ideas & bounce ideas back to them

  4. Thanks for the comment Duncan. Its amazing to me how many people /don't/ use that as a tool for learning.