All posts by FinKingma

Purpose – What are we doing? And why?

What are we doing? Why are we implementing this sorry excuse for a user story? What will this user story achieve in the bigger picture? Is there even a bigger picture?

I have attended several refinements as a coach, where I was waiting for those questions to arise… Unfortunately, they are rarely asked. Usually, because there is no easy answer to these questions. The difficult truth is that we all like to please others, so we would rather stick our heads in the sand and hope everything will turn out fine.

And that is exactly what we get. Instead of having an awesome job, doing cool stuff and making a difference: our job will be just that, it will be fine. And it could be so much better, with some practices I will share on this blog. Continue reading

Humanity is awesome

I love Intrinsic Motivation. Even as a theory. The beauty of it, is the perspective it gives of humanity. When broken down, Intrinsic Motivation send the message the humanity is awesome!

Over the years, several theories have emerged around Intrinsic Motivation. They all have slight differences. But in the end, it all comes down to a single thing:

Everyone wants to do good and help each other out, by making use of their own skills.

 

And that’s amazing!

Especially because:

  1. Everyone is different. Because if this, everyone will develop themselves in different ways, making everyone – dare I say it – unique. Someone might want to help out as a farmer, while other people would rather become a doctor. We all try to pitch in, in our own unique way. And because we all want different things, we don’t just argue, we can complement each other!
  2. Everything we do is meant to help out others. As we grow and improve ourselves, we try to use these newly learned skills to help out in new different ways. Our mind is actually programmed so that we feel good when we help others!

But…

Then what causes all this violence and grief in this world? How can we cause so much pain, while we try to help out?

Two very important reasons are causing this…

1. Many people presume that their perspective is the best

As long as people believe that their perspective (see my blog post about perspectives) is the best one – and that the world will be better off if everyone accepted their perspective as a universal truth – we will have conflicts.

In some cases, this will merely result in heated discussions about who is right. But the horrid truth is that almost every (if not all) war originated from this presumption behavior. Every war started with someone who believed that their way of thinking is the best, and that the entire world would be ‘helped’ if they accepted this ‘better way of thinking’.

 

2. People cannot take every factor into account when making a decision

During a day we make many decisions. Some are conscious, while others are unconsciously made. Whenever we try to ‘do the right thing’, there is always a risk that we hurt someone else.

Sometimes this happens because we are aware of it. For instance, when a manager has to fire employees to save a company. In this case, a tough decision is made to help as many people as possible, but unfortunately, there always are people left out, who end up hurt.

But in other situations, we aren’t even aware of the repercussions of our actions. Sometimes we try to do the right thing, but end up hurting everyone. For instance when we try to implement DevOps, without notifying the right people. And suddenly the entire organization is fearing for their own job.

 

 

So…

In the end we – humans – are flawed and make mistakes. And we also still have a lot to learn about how not to hurt others. But we still try to make the right decisions, to help everyone, and to make sure we don’t hurt others.

Isn’t that amazing?

There is no truth, only perspectives

One my most important belief being a romantic is that I do not believe in the concept of ‘truth’. For those interested in romanticism and who haven’t seen the movie yet, I recommend Don Juan DeMarco as a really good introduction.

Johnny Depp manages to deliver a vital part of romanticism in this movie: what we perceive as truth and reality, does not necessarily have to be our truth.

I’ll give an example from the movie. Johnny Depp is being taken into a psychiatric hospital, because he is delusional, believing himself to be Don Juan. However, he decides to embrace his new environment not as a ‘mental hospital’, but as ‘The Villa of Don Octavio de Florenca’, in which he is an honored guest.

His surroundings are still similar, he still has to take his pills. However, his experience towards his environment becomes much more positive, and he manages to inspire everyone around him.

Truth in science

But also in our ‘real’ life, the concept of truth is often questioned. A few decades ago, quantum mechanics became a thing. Still, many people have trouble grasping the magnitude of this concept. Understandably, because it shakes our concept of ‘what we know’ yet again.

Based on quantum mechanics, everything around us is always in motion, always changing. When we observe our surroundings, the atoms take on a solid form that we can observe. This means that whenever we are not observing any object, it is impossible to know how it looks like, or if anything has happened to it. We presume that if we look outside, the sky will still be blue. But that actually is quite a big assumption.

The fact that if I drop a pen at this moment, and it will fall on the ground. gives no guarantee that the same behavior will occur 1 minute from now. And yet we still assume that it always does. It’s quite magical that the things around us, are making so much sense that we can afford to make all these assumptions.

Truth of our senses

Based on our previous concept of quantum mechanics, we can only talk about ‘truth’ when we directly observe something. Only about the things we have already seen.

Wrong. We can’t even do that…

The problem is that the senses of human beings (and everything we create) is flawed. Our ears can only hear a limited range of frequencies. This is why we cannot hear bats communicate, because bats communicate on a frequency that we cannot hear. But not just our ears are flawed, our eyes are limited as well. We can only see a part of the entire light spectrum.

So what is still left when talking about ‘truth’?… Almost nothing.

The only thing we can say when talking about truth is for example ‘When I dropped my pen at moment X, I saw it fall to the ground’. So we can only speak of the truth about a personal observation in the past.

And that’s why I refuse to work with the concept of ‘truth’. It’s pretty useless and it only creates confusion and conflict (“No this is true! you are wrong!”).

 

Truth –> Perspectives

But I do believe in something else. I believe in perspectives. Perspectives are like truths, with one big difference. A perspective is personal or bound to a group.

I’ll let that sink in…

 

This means that any perspective (conscious or subconscious) is chosen by an individual. Each individual chooses (consciously or subconsciously) to believe in a certain set of perspectives (science is the truth, gravity will always keep working, There is a God). Those perspectives become real for that person.

But I like to take things one step further. I think that we can only observe the things that we truly believe in. We only observe the things that we believe to be ‘real’.

Time for an example! Mike believes that ghosts are real. That’s a perspective Mike believes in. Making it real for Mike. Yesterday, Mike saw a ghost.

This sounds a little bit bizarre, but according to my belief, this is reasonable. And I love that it is reasonable.

Why do I believe in this?

I’m not trying to convince people to adopt this way of thinking. But I do want to explain why this way of thinking is working well for myself.

  1. I do not reject what others see as truth and reality completely. Knowledge is important to understand the world and to be able to work with other. However, I do make the distinction of accepting these ‘facts’ as perspectives, which I share with 95% of our population.
  2. My belief can coexist with other forms of faith. It does not create conflicts with others and gives myself the freedom and flexibility to (in my opinion) engage in a meaningful discussion with people who believe in an actual God.
  3. And the most important. I am free to accept the perspectives I want to believe in. To me ‘But that’s true!’ is not an argument to accept a new perspective. I am only interested in the question ‘Will this perspective improve my life?’. This enables me to consciously choose the perspectives that make my life the best life I could ever have.

Romanticism vs Enlightenment

For over a thousand years, science lived happily together with faith. Both existed for different reasons, so why would there be any conflict? Science focuses on building knowledge, while faith concerns itself with the more spiritual questions like: ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘What is good?’. This went smoothly for thousands of years….

Enter the Age of Enlightenment… Suddenly everything had to be done differently. And it seems that most people still struggle with this.

The Age of Enlightenment came 250 years ago and started a massive conflict between romanticism and the ‘enlightened’. There is a lot to find about both movements in literature and google. I will provide a simple explanation:

Romanticism focuses on the emotional value of all that we do. Nowadays – Art, poetry, novels, movies and many other ways in which people express themselves are found everywhere around us. We can thank romanticism for this change, because before this movement, it was nearly impossible to earn a living that way. Focusing on emotional value, romanticism tries to answer questions like ‘what is good?’ and ‘what is beautiful?’.

On the other end, we have the Enlightenment. This movement states that life is about gaining knowledge and following reason. Truth is the only thing that matters. Thus faith was suddenly questioned.

I love reading about this age. Especially the romanticism movement. But what shocks me is the impact is still having on our society, 250 years later. This impact can be clearly seen in the following two areas.

Knowledge is often seen as the goal in our life

In the western world, knowledge and science are often seen as the most important things to dedicate our lives to. Being successful is directly linked to knowing things that other people do not. I have made that mistake after I graduated, I directly started focusing on my career to become successful. Unfortunately, due to me being a romantic, this led to a burnout. I was trying to gain knowledge, simply because I had no idea what else I should focus on. You don’t simply create emotional value… In retrospect, I realize that faith could have helped me during my struggle.

Faith is often rationalized

Many people still feel the need to rationalize faith. They try to understand how someone could walk on water. I often catch myself in similar ways of thinking. But this is wrong! Faith has nothing to do with science and we must stop trying to connect the two. It’s not an or/or situation, both sides work together. I try to see things as follows: faith gives us direction and value, science makes things understandable.

I do want to stress that by faith, I am not necessarily talking about believing in a man with a beard who lives above us in the clouds. It is about being able to give direction and value to your life. Whether you use faith for that or not, is completely up to you.

Eventually, we are born on this earth without a manual and we must figure out ourselves how we spend our life. Science will never give the answer to this, we will always depend on faith.

Hello

Hey,

My name is Fin Kingma. For a long time, I have seen myself as a motivation expert in the test world. A few months ago, this website used to send this message. Not anymore. The world is changing. And I am too.

Much has changed in recent times. Especially during the last year. As of a year ago, I am recovering from a burnout…

People who know me well won’t be surprised by this, this was something that just had to happen to me. My work rhythm was too much to maintain for the long run. The problem is that I have an incredibly high sense of responsibility, which often resulted in me maneuvering myself into difficult situations. Not because I enjoyed this, but because I knew it was necessary to help the customer. After 4 years of hard work, this behavior eventually led me to accept who I am and what I can (damn, so I also have limits).

Luckily the worst part of my burnout is over, and I gradually started working again. As I type this I work 5 days a week, making 5 hours. Still unpaid, but for an organization that I can help. This way I am confronted with my sense of responsibility, which I have to learn to deal with.

Over the past year, I’ve made a lot of different changes in my life, to remain closer to myself and prevent this from happening ever again. I take a mandatory hour of mental rest daily (meditation, walking, or just a nap), and I have taken two kittens. But the most important change will be found in this blog, that I became a romantic tester. I will explain this further.

During my re-integration process, I’ve come across a personal problem of myself. For example, I have been tested with the Enneagram, a personality test with different profiles, which focuses on the identity layer of the onion model (see below).

Of all profiles, the perfectionist was the one who came out on top, so that should have been me. Nice, I learned something again. But then I went on to analyze the results further. I started working with the onion model and went to analyze from which level my perfectionists behavior originated.


I came to an interesting conclusion. All the ‘perfectionists’ behavior that I showed came from the ‘beliefs’ layer. I taught myself this behavior because I knew that I would be successful in the current market.

For further analysis, I used the following question: “Why do I display this behavior?” And if I can explain it with an answer – any answer, There will be a high chance that this behavior will not be part of my identity. Your personality consists of all the various layers of the onion model. One part is your own identity, and another part is what you’ve learned (confident talking is effective to convince people) – your belief system.

The only behavior that you can be confident about as being part of your identity, is the behavior that you display without understanding why you do this.

I went back to other enneagram profiles. Soon the romantic presented itself. The romantic was said to display several behavioral characteristics which I find very annoying about myself. For example: “Always feel the urge to express myself in large groups to make himself feel alive”. For example, I personally can not enjoy festivals because I feel like I’m disappearing as part of the crowd. In addition to this example, there were other recognizable behavioral characteristics that I recognized and disliked about myself.

Long story short: I found out that I taught myself to act as a perfectionist, but deep inside I really am a romantic.

And once I reached that conclusion, I recognized more and more properties of myself that you would describe as a ‘romantic’. So know it now:

I, Fin Kingma, am a romantic!

 

And that’s exactly the change that I want to present through my blog. This blog is now the way I will express myself as a romantic. I will share my vision, principles, and beliefs that make me the person I am (instead of the person I acted as to become more succesful).

 

Fin Kingma, the romantic tester!

Improv as motivator

Hi,

I am Fin Kingma and I am worried. Worried about all the people working agile and still focusing on methods, techniques and tools.
I myself am an Agile Tester. And over the years I have come across a lot of trainings and workshops about Exploratory Testing, Test Automation, and other techniques / tools you can use to add more value in your team as a tester.

I notice a huge gap in soft skills trainings and workshops for testers, but also for other IT professionals. How can that be? If the first Agile Value is named “People and Interactions over Processes and Tools”, why do we spend so much time on learning new processes and tools, and so little time on ourselves and our interactions? It’s not like working in IT will improve our soft skills automatically. Or is everyone just skipping the first value…

Several years ago I discovered why. Why there are so few trainings and workshops to train our testing soft skills. It is because it is ‘intangible’, which is a fancy word for ‘I have no idea how to train that’.

The challenge
Being quite competitive myself, I had this little barney in the back of my head saying ‘challenge accepted!’ and so I started my quest to come up with ways to train these intangible soft skills.
I started digging into Intrinsic Motivation, which gave me a solid understanding of how our motivation and behavior works. Even stuff like manipulation. I just wanted to understand everything that could help me develop trainings and workshops to train soft skills for the IT professional. Mainly focusing on testers, because I believe testers should be the evangelists in helping a team improve (not only testing the product, but also testing the process and the team).
Using my newly gained knowledge of Intrinsic Motivation I gave several presentations and workshops, where I managed to help people understand their own motivations and behavior. I helped people understand the difference between self determined / proactive individuals (what every organization is looking for nowadays) versus reactive individuals, which was the result of bad management for several decades. Everyone saw the value of becoming proactive / self determined individuals, but unfortunately most people were still stuck in the reactive part and I could not help them to become proactive. The advise I gave, which I learned from Intrinsic Motivation and from the many horrible manipulation stories, was: ‘you need to discover who you are, for yourself’.

But to be completely honest… it was still something intangible for me as well.

But it seems that I now have come up with a possible way to ‘tangilize’ the intangible.

Improv
As a kid I spend some years on the stage, practising theatre. It was a lot of fun, but I always got bored when we had to follow the script. Those days I never even heard of Improvisation Theatre.

Six months ago I started practising Improvisation Theatre, to find out if it could help with my quest to train soft skills for IT professionals. To turn reactive individuals into proactive self-determined individuals.
While practising Improvisation Theatre I discovered that the art of Improv (short for Improvisation Theatre) makes use of exactly those soft skills that spark our creativity and come up with new brilliant ways to improve ourselves and our communication (listening and talking effectively). Basically it focuses on almost everything you need to become self-determined. Dan O’Conner gives an amazing speech of how improvisation could be used:

There’s also a nice blogpost from Robert Strauch who also made the link between Improv and Testing, and a few talks are given about using improv skills to improve the way we test. So this idea of using Improv is not completely new. But I am curious how improv can be used to transform people from reactive into proactive beings.

Amongst others, the following soft skills are trained using Improv:

  • Be bold, dare to stand up in front of an audience
  • Listening well to your partners and your audience
  • Bringing your message across as effectively as possible
  • Accept and embrace any situation
  • Having fun

Testing it’s practical use
I already organized a simple workshop and discovered that it was possible to have an entire group of people who are new to improv, stand and perform on stage within the hour. Several build up exercises are required to get there though. Now as a next step I want to go further. I want to discover if I can spark proactive behaviour using Improv workshops at clients, to help teams reach a stage of continuous improvement. Off course I will do this the testers-way! I will create a hypothesis and act (organize workshops at a client in this case) to prove or disprove my hypothesis. Because that is what makes testing fun.

My hypothesis is as follows:

“People who voluntarily join improvisation theatre workshops at a regularly base will show increased proactive behaviour over time.”

I will measure this using the following metrics:
– the amount of improvements done during a sprint within a team (should go up),
– the amount of complaining without action done during a sprint (should go down).

I will measure these by observing teams before and after each workshop, focusing on the attendees of the workshops.

For the coming months I will update this blog more actively to share any interesting updates.

Experimenting with Intrinsic Motivation

hey there!

For years I had this notion that it must be much more complex to Intrinsically motivate people than to motivate them externally. That it should be easier to decrease the internalization of their motivation, than to increase it. I could not have been more wrong…

Mostly because there have been many experiments like the candle problem. Problems that required creative heuristic thinking to be solved and where participants become driven by external motivation (simply by adding a monetary reward).

For those that are unfamiliar with the candle problem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candle_problem

candle-problem-heuristic_383

The challenge is: how to fix and light a candle on a wall (a cork board) in a way so the candle wax won’t drip onto the table below.

These experiments show how easily participants can be manipulated by lowering their internalization, making them less effective in solving complex puzzles.

Experiments
Several months ago I conducted experiments with the same idea using a dutch game called ‘black stories’, where participants have to think creatively to find the solution. In this case, to solve a murder. I came to the same conclusions as most of the candle problem experiments, but at least I discovered them myself. I learned for myself instead of from a book.

A few weeks ago I conducted a new experiment (still using black stories). But instead of playing with a focus group and a control group, I decided to go for one group and play with the rules to see what happens within the group.

Basically I started out playing the game the way it is meant to be played. But as players made too much progress – I changed the rules.

Individual game chips
My main addition were game chips (= external stimuli). Players could win chips by asking the right questions or lose chips by asking stupid questions. The game master could decide which questions were right and which were stupid (I picked someone random as game master).

An important insight was not only the speed in which questions were asked, but also the type of questions. The game started active, with questions being asked every second. After the introduction of game chips, the players started asking ‘safe’ questions. Questions that would rarely be considered stupid, but uncovered almost no clues at all. It could take 30 seconds between the questions that were asked. You can imagine that it took very long for the game to be completed this way (and the plan was to timebox these sessions for 10 minutes :D).

Group game chips
Another fun alteration was having game chips for the ‘group’. Game chips were now shared. All of a sudden, the players started thinking more collaboratively. Listening to each other, but still asking ‘safe’ questions. Discussions were born.

It was incredibly fun to see what these changes did to the group behavior. Everyone was affected by these game changers and it had enormous impact on the speed in which the game was played – and completed. As I put more focus on the game chips, less relevant questions were asked and it took longer to complete the game.

After evaluating one of the sessions I got feedback that it was normal for the game to start active and slowly lose speed, because the first relevant questions are the easiest to think of.

The challenge
So I felt an upcoming challenge that I had to take. I decided to spice things up for the last group. Before the game started I gave every player a few game chips and explained the ‘rules’, or actually ‘my screwed up rules’.

After 5 minutes, not a single relevant question was asked.

Then I intervened. I took away all the game chips and explained it was free for all once again.

Now every player was firing away relevant questions. Not a second was wasted. It took them only a few minutes to finish the game this time.

Conclusion
When playing a game that requires creative thinking, triggering Intrinsic Motivation is JUST AS EASY as triggering External Motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation

As an Intrinsic Motivation enthusiast I have had several discussions with people about the subject. I have learned over the years that many people do not understand what Intrinsic Motivation is about. For that reason I decided to make a new blog post to explain the idea behind Intrinsic Motivation.

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan explain “To be motivated means to be moved to do something”. I always explain it as having  the energy to do something. Without energy, all of our brilliant ideas will never come to fruition. Energy or motivation is not enough to make us move. We also need direction. Motivation in itself does not say anything about direction, that is why we talk about Extrinsic Motivation or Intrinsic Motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation vs Intrinsic Motivation
We can be Extrinsically motivated: directed by external factors, like money or trying to avoid pain.

Intrinsic Motivation means that we get the direction from ourselves. We decide for ourselves what we want to do.

Polarized Internalization
However, Intrinsic Motivation states that we are solely directed by intrinsic factors. But even our hobbies are affected by our own environment: being short on cash, not having enough time. Many other external factors can be named. The point is, is that we are always partially influenced by external factors.

In truth, the amount of which we are directed by intrinsic factors versus external factors is a matter of polarization. The degree to which we are Intrinsically motivated is called our Internalization.

5 levels of internalization
Self Determination Theory developed a subtheory called Organismic Integration Theory. This subtheory divides our degrees of internalization into five different groups. These five groups helped me understand the internalization of my own actions, while I was still an… lets call it Intrinsic Motivation Apprentice.

Starting at the bottom of internalization:

1) External motivation
Being directed by external factors. The carrot and stick principles is a well known example of this level of internalization: do this and then you will get X, or if you don’t you will get punished by Y. You are being forced by an external source.

2) Introjected motivation
Being pressured. Someone that is pressuring you to sign a contract is a great example of this level of motivation, but also peer pressure is a common example. The external factors that pressure you are not easily perceived and it often feels like you are forcing yourself to do something.

3) Identified motivation
Willing to do something for another. You are not directed by your own self, but you choose voluntarily to help someone else. For myself, doing the dishes in a guests apartment is a good example. But also when you are part of a Scrum team it is important to set your own idealogy aside and let yourself be directed by what the team needs.

4) Integrated motivation
Wanting something. This level of motivation is directed by your own idealogy. Whenever you are focused on a goal that is important to you (but you have not yet achieved) you are directed by Integrated motivation. You are directed by your own self, but you focus on something external.

5) Intrinsic motivation
Purely Intrinsic Motivation is doing something for the experience itself. You are not focused on any external goal. To be directed by this level of motivation you need to study yourself, discover who you are. In My identity I explain who I am and what I want. Who I am is linked to this level of internalization and what I want is linked to level 4, Integrated motivation.

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

Proactive / self managed
The higher your internalization, the more proactive you become. After all, the higher levels of internalization make you less dependant on external factors. If you act based on level 1 internalization (external motivation) you will only act when a carrot or stick is presented at you. If you act based on level 5 internalization (Intrinsic motivation) you have no dependency towards any external factors, thus you act based on your own self. This is what we call proactive behavior. The only risk is that what you think is right, might bring down new problems. The key here is communication. If you talk with your colleagues about your ideas, they can warn you or help you out.

Creative
Several studies have shown that we become more skilled at performing heuristic skills (thinking creatively) when being intrinsically motivated. This RSI Animate film explains this concept.

Flexible
Once you discover who you are (again, read My identity), you will discover you are much more then what your job description tells you. I am a Test Consultant. However, because I act based on my own self, I am now also a capable programmer, a Scrum Master and I have learned a lot about (automatic) deployments.

Control over your energy
Being less dependant from external factors also makes us less vulnerable. We cannot control external factors. As we are directed by lower levels of internalization, our energy is influenced by these external factors. If we are directed by our own self we can also choose for ourselves when to act on something that is important. I’ll give a real-life example.

At work I often start new initiatives that improve the quality of our work. A few weeks ago I had taken up too much extra work. I noticed the effect it had on my own energy levels. I informed my colleagues and for a short periode I focused myself only on my testing and developing activities (which I like to do) and let the other initiatieves rest until I felt better. The other initiatives are based on level 4 internalization, while most of my standard activities (testing and developing) are based on level 5 internalization.

Conclusion
Summing up. Intrinsic Motivation is the most internalized direction you can be motivated for. It means you know exactly who you are and you let your actions be directed based on who you are. This way you become more proactive, more creative and more flexible as a team member, but also as a person. It also helps you take control over your own energy.