Many years ago, I read Sherlock Holmes novels. Once I started reading them, I read almost all of them. I loved the short stories (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), probably because they were short and were easy to remember.

Sherlock Holmes is a detective; has many skills and he seems to be passionate about Chemistry and anatomy. But one thing that seems to be very common in all of his detective activities is that he sticks to logic, has absolutely fantastic observation and deductive reasoning.

When I read those novels, I noticed (observed) that my observation (noticing) skills improved. I was able to notice minute things and deduced outcomes from those observations. I also noticed that sometimes people commented (and complimented) on those observation skills. Then I became a software tester and met Michael Bolton. Michael is not a detective, neither he is a singer. He is a great teacher and an awesome software tester. He introduced me to better testing and about using my noticing skills in testing. 

I will share the secret with you soon, or eventually you will find out if you are noticing.

I wanted this legacy to be continued. And therefore, few days ago I threw a quick challenge to my team. I usually do it because I believe we sometime get so engrossed in our day-to-day work and somewhat mundane activities that we forget to do what may add value to us.

A little distraction of this kind refreshes the brain cells and I guess it helps recharge the depleting neuron batteries.

I told the team that this challenge should not take more than 3 minutes to answer (prioritisation). I asked them to call out (decision making & communication) as soon as they find out (exploration!) what they understand from what was there in the challenge. 

It was also one of my experiments with Gamification. I recently finished studying Gamification which I found very interesting. The course was delivered by Prof. Kevin Werbach (@kwerb) of Wharton School. Details are here.

Below are the steps that you need to follow to complete the challenge:

1. Visit this website :
2. Start reading the article

3. Do NOT sign in or enter your email ID in the text box. 

4. Continue reading without pressing the green ‘Continue reading’ button.

5. After few more lines, stop reading

BTW, I am not endorsing this website but because I used it as an example, I would give it some credit. I did not bother reading the complete article as well. 

6. Retrospect on your experience

If you were able to visit the website, you made good progress. Well done! If you were also able to read the article without pressing the green button; brilliant! You get extra point.  If you couldn’t find none of these, I have explained it at the bottom of the page.

The point that I am trying to make here is about ‘noticing’. We come across many situations where we say, “sorry I didn’t notice it”; or “we missed the bug because we didn’t notice it” etc.
There are many situations we ask the question, “how couldn’t you notice it, it was so obvious”. “We did notice it, but we didn’t think it was important”. etc.

I would strongly recommend that you look at James Bach and Michael Bolton’s presentation on “Testing and Noticing” to understand it better.
In the presentation they explain that ‘priming’ reduces noticing among other factors. What happened to some of my team members when they could not even find the website was predominantly due to priming effect.
Understanding it from another perspective may help too. I wrote a post about Situational awareness some time ago. You can read it here
If you could not find the website but after seeing the explanation you said to yourself that you always knew it was somewhere there, then let me tell you that many things appear obvious in hindsight. (“Tools of Critical Thinking: Metathoughts for Psychology ” by David Levy). 

What can help?

James & Michael’s presentation talks about factors that can help in improving these skills. One of those is very important, Practice.

There are books on critical and lateral thinking that may help too, especially in practicing the skills. I read De Bono many years ago. Lately I read ‘Thinking, Fast & Slow‘, which is an awesome book. There was another book called ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly‘ by Rolf Dobelli is a decent book. While these books are not specifically about observation, my personal view is that clarity of thought improves observation. 

I am not sure whether reading Sherlock Holmes will help you, though.  

Explanation of the challenge:

1. Website is in white font. Mouse over would show it.

2. If you are able to see the right page that I want you to see, you will notice that there is a scroll bar of a page length. The question that I had when I looked at it was, if this is a blank page and if I cannot read the article without entering the email address, why do they have this scroll bar. Either it was a catch or it was bad usability.

3. By scrolling down you can read the whole article.

James Bach (
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