I recently read This Is Marketing by Seth Godin and found it interesting and well-written, as I’d expected. But I didn’t expect this book to have some worthwhile lessons for testing folks who might be trying to change the way testing is thought about and performed within their teams and organizations.
I don’t think I’d previously considered marketing in these terms, but Seth says “If you want to spread your ideas, make an impact, or improve something, you are marketing”. If we’re trying to influence changes in testing, then one of our key skills is marketing the changes we want to make. The following quote from the book (and, no, I didn’t choose this quote simply because it mentions “status quo”!) is revealing:
How the status quo got that way
The dominant narrative, the market share leader, the policies and procedures that rule the day – they all exist for a reason.
They’re good at resisting efforts by insurgents like you.
If all it took to upend the status quo was the truth, we would have changed a long time ago.
If all we were waiting for was a better idea, a simpler solution, or a more efficient procedure, we would have shifted away from the status quo a year or a decade or a century ago.
The status quo doesn’t shift because you’re right. It shifts because the culture changes.
And the engine of culture is status.
I certainly recognise this in some of my advocacy efforts over the years when I was focused on repeating my “truth” about the way things should be from a testing perspective, but less tuned in to the fact that the status quo wasn’t going to shift simply by bombarding people with facts or evidence.
Seth also talks about “The myth of rational choice”:
Microeconomics is based on a demonstrably false assertion. “The rational agent is assumed to take account of available information, probabilities of events, and potential costs and benefits in determining preferences, and to act consistently in choosing the self-determined best choice of action,” says Wikipedia.
Of course not.
Perhaps if we average up a large enough group of people, it is possible that, in some ways, on average, we might see glimmers of this behavior. But it’s not something I’d want you to bet on.
In fact, the bet you’re better off making is: “When in doubt, assume that people will act according to their current irrational urges, ignoring information that runs counter to their beliefs, trading long-term for short-term benefits and most of all, being influenced by the culture they identify with.”
You can make two mistakes here:
1. Assume that the people you’re seeking to serve are well-informed, rational, independent, long-term choice makers.
2. Assume that everyone is like you, knows what you know, wants what you want.
I’m not rational and neither are you.(Emphasis is mine)
I’m sure that any of us who’ve tried to instigate changes to way testing gets done in an organization can relate to this! People will often ignore information that doesn’t support their existing beliefs (confirmation bias) and team/organizational culture is hugely influential. It’s almost as though the context in which we attempt to move the needle on testing is important.
I think there are good lessons for testing changemakers in these couple of short passages from Seth’s book, but I would recommend reading the book in its entirety even if you don’t think marketing is your thing – you might just get some unexpected insights like I did.
Pingback: Five Blogs – 14 February 2023 – 5blogs