When you hear the phrase “you’d better put your thinking cap on!”, it’s usually done in jest. The origin of the phrase is based on humor. A thinking cap is defined as “a supposed piece of headgear worn while one is thinking about how to solve a problem.”  The phrase was first used in the early 1600’s:

This project looks like it will be a real challenge – put your thinking cap on!

A thinking cap was previously known as a “considering cap”. The phrase is often used when trying to resolve a complex issue. It’s also used in terms of looking at things in a different light, or from a different angle – “with fresh eyes”, as they say.

Thinking in multiple dimensions

In the software testing world, the term “multi-dimensional thinking” can be used in place of a thinking cap. Thinking multi-dimensionally, testers can be asked to think according to the color that they are assigned.

According to the popular book by Edward de Bono, Six Thinking Hats, published in 1985, multi-dimensional thinking can be mapped to different colors that represent cognitive styles. In other words, each color is assigned a thought pattern. onpathtesting_quality testing processes by color

For example, Blue concentrates on the overview of a situation. White analyzes facts and information. Red drives passion and emotion. Yellow sparks positive thinking. Black encourages the exploration of risks and problems. Green creates new ideas. Multi-dimensional thinking through color memory helps software testers think in different, more innovative ways.

According to Jay Fraser on the website for “Innovative Excellence”:

On the most fundamental level, people think in one-dimension. They see what they see and make decisions in the absolute…3-dimensional thinking occurs when you are able to lead a Transdisciplinary team of professionals drawing upon the expertise of others with whom you may never even have spent time. Transdisciplinarity is a concept that means that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond each individual discipline… the essence of multi-dimensional thinking [is] thinking in the 4th dimension, or truly thinking outside of the box. This is sometimes referred to as “reach across” technology. Simply, this is “borrowing” a technology or method from another unrelated field and applying it in an entirely new way. Here’s why I think innovators are better than most people:

“At times that I see dots that others do not see. Connecting them makes all the difference.”

The idea of using multiple dimensions when resolving an issue is to expand your mind in order to look at the problem from various angles.  

onpathtesting_multidimensional testingIn the Guide to Advanced Software Testing by Anne Mette Jonassen Hass, she talks about multi-dimensional testing:

The universe of testing is multi-dimensional. It changes its composition and look constantly, depending on the circumstances. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope on a richly faceted picture.

She goes on to talk about the difficulty of presenting a multi-dimensional testing universe in a one-dimensional way, but an unlimited number of pictures based on facets such as test techniques, risk willingness, quality goals, time and money can be made, and no two pictures will be exactly alike.

This is the challenge of an advanced tester – to grasp the various facets of the multi-dimensional test universe and create different pictures, depending on the situation, at any given time.

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