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Gil Zilberfeld has been in software since childhood, writing BASIC programs on his trusty Sinclair ZX81. With more than twenty years of developing commercial software, he has vast experience in software methodology and practices. Gil is an agile consultant, applying agile principles over the last decade. From automated testing to exploratory testing, design practices to team collaboration, scrum to kanban, and lean startup methods – he’s done it all. He is still learning from his successes and failures. Gil speaks frequently in international conferences about unit testing, TDD, agile practices and communication. He is the author of "Everyday Unit Testing", blogs at http://www.gilzilberfeld.com and in his spare time he shoots zombies, for fun. Gil is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 73 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Embrace Your Inner Mad Scientist

02.22.2013
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Recently I’ve come to value experiments. I value them so much, it seems all I’m doing is experimenting.

That’s no coincidence: In an agile environment, a start-up company, or new research, we’re up to our armpits in uncertainty. We try to control it in different ways, but the fact is, unless things are clear cut, we have no idea how our decisions will play out. You can take this in different ways. One way is to ride the flow, see what comes. Or you can create check points.

An experiment is something you’re starting. You decide on what you want to check, set some initial conditions (those that you can control) and off you go. You can’t guarantee any result, but you can decide when the experiment ends.

If you take this view point, almost everything can look like an experiment.

The new feature you want everyone to love. Will it work? Will everybody love it? What do you do? Experiment.

You’re introducing TDD. Will the team work with you or against you? Don’t know? Experiment.

Simple, isn’t it?

Read the small print

Not all experiments succeed. Remember that “no guarantee”? Things can really blow up. Let’s face it, they mostly do.

When things blow up, it usually means the experiment is over. This is where you declare defeat.

And start a new experiment.

This is the difference between being swept by the river of uncertainty and making course corrections.

As a change agent, what you’re doing is trying things out. Sometimes they work, and you move on to the next thing.

Sometimes they don’t.

Then you move on to the next thing.

Published at DZone with permission of Gil Zilberfeld, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Lund Wolfe replied on Sat, 2013/02/23 - 2:22am

Sometimes it seems like everything is a tiny spike experiment to judge what to include or exclude.  If you don't love research, you're in the wrong field.  "Embrace change" or Reagan's "trust, but verify".  The alternative is FUD or "be afraid, very afraid".

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