The Crashing Paper Airplane Heuristic Henrik Emilsson

I thought of this the other day when rethinking a situation that was described in the experience report from Petter Mattson on “Swedish Workshop on Exploratory Testing” (SWET1).

Let’s say that you have 100 Paper Airplane builders in your team. They all follow scripted instructions on how to fold a paper in order to create a specific paper airplane; and the goal is to build airplanes that can fly.
But you notice a problem. None of the airplanes can fly! No matter of how much strength you use to throw them away, they instantly fall to the ground and crashes.

What you could do in this situation is to keep the scripted instructions and hope that mother nature changes so that the current airplanes can fly.
Or,  you could throw away the scripted instructions and let people use their minds, creativity, and exploratory skills in order to find out how a paper can be folded in order to get a functional paper airplane that can fly.

If what you are currently doing isn’t working, i.e. not fulfilling your goal (in this case to get an airplane to fly), a change cannot be more unsuccessful. It is instead an opportunity to get at least one airplane up and flying, even if it doesn’t look like one of the intended airplanes. Plunge in and each small progress is something that you will learn from.
I think that it is enough with just 1 paper airplane builder being successful and the other 99 just sitting down and having a cup of coffee. This is at least more successful than having 100 paper airplane builders not creating any value at all.

The Crashing Paper Airplane Heuristic: If you follow scripted instructions on how to build paper airplanes and you don’t create anything that can fly, throwing away those instructions and start building paper airplanes from scratch cannot be more unsuccessful.

Rikard Edgren October 22nd, 2010

But what are the flying planes to be used for?
And is it important that they are of paper?
Maybe the goal is to get rid of papers in a way that looks like it has a thought?
Which leads me to thinking that part of scripted test efforts are alibies; by spending 1000 hours of testing, noone can blame us for not focusing on quality.
The back is free, and results are secondary.

Henrik Emilsson October 22nd, 2010

Good observations, but not part of this heuristic. You know, heuristics are fallible by nature.