Cow Magnet Customer Contribution: Our customer Montvelisky write the cow magnet’s archive, thank him.

Looking for your “Cow Magnet” is not hard, and the main challenge is to re-define your problems in a way that will let you find “other” possible solutions.

Following are three methods I use to achieve this.

Method 1 – Look at the problem from your user’s perspective

This is the simplest method and one you can even do by yourself, simply try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think how he sees the problem.

Like in the example above, the user didn’t care the problem was caused by his customizations, he simply wanted his project to be migrated successfully. Or in the case of the dairy farmers, they didn’t care about the pieces of metal, they simply wanted their cows not to die.

Method 2 – 5 Whys

To quote Wikipedia on it: “The 5 Whys is a question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem…”

Basically, take some of your peers and write down the problem you are trying to solve on a whiteboard, then ask WHY? (e.g. why are looking to take out the metal objects of the hay, or why are databases failing to upgrade?).

Write the answer/s you got, and ask once again the question WHY?

Repeat this process 4 to 5 times and you will get to the source of the issue you are trying to solve and hopefully to more ways how to solve it.

Method 3 – Brainstorm with other members of your Organizations, but not from your own team!

This might be the most effective method since it will give you the broader results, but it is also the most time consuming, so use it only when the problem you are looking to solve is important enough.

brainstorm idea

Set up a meeting where you bring people from other teams in your company such as Support, Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, etc. Then perform a brainstorming session with them around your problem (you can use the 5 whys, or any other brainstorming method you like) and try to bring as many ideas as possible into the table.

The advantage of this method is that it will provide a lot of varied approaches that are not biased by the technical nature of the testing and development teams.

Have you come up any “Cow Magnets” in the past?
Share them!!

An additional example that comes to mind is the tale about the Russian Space Pencil: As part of the Space Race it became apparent that pens (that work based on the principle of gravity) don’t work in outer space. The Americans spent millions of dollars developing a pen that would work on Zero-G conditions (and also under water, at extreme conditions or cold and heat, etc), while the Russians simply gave their cosmonauts pencils… (BTW, this is apparently only an urban legend but still drives the point home)

Have you come up with “Cow Magnets” of your own?
Share them with us and give additional ideas on how to go around solving problems using unconventional approaches!

 

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