I am the Queen of Defocus

I remember the day I earned the self acclaimed title of Queen of Defocus. I had been testing for about 3 years and had been hired as the *only* tester in an R&D lab of about thirty engineers. I also happened to be the only female engineer at the time, so I was Queen of the Lab regardless.

But I become Queen of Defocus when one day I was working on creating a test strategy for a Nationwide Freephone service that was to be designed and built in our lab. I had earlier cottoned on to the idea of white boarding the service and grabbing poor unsuspecting engineers as they passed by to help me figure out how the service worked. This helped me understand the service better and also on occasion I saw engineers go quiet as they realised through my questions that they had overlooked something in their design. (I later discovered James Bach calls this Inside-Out Analysis)

One day, as I was applying this approach I had a gestalt moment. I realised that I was really really good at  asking pertinent questions. Questions not necessarily about the service itself (though I did ask those) but also about how the service was going to be used, deployed, tested, maintained and operated. But what made these questions so valuable? Why were *my* questions seemingly able to discover problems other engineers failed to think of?

What exactly was I doing?

I decided it was the ability to grasp an answer from one question and allow it to connect to some other seemingly significant piece of information to generate another question. To do that, I had to let the information go for a wander in my mind until it connected to another piece of information. I had this visual idea of information wandering through my brain, seeking a neuron to bond with. However it happened it was working.

So I became Queen of Defocus partly because of this gift I had to make connections, but also because everyone else was so focused. By focusing so well (and they were some of the brightest engineers in the country) my defocusing ability was allowed to really shine. I was the ying to their yang.

Years have flown by (literally, I traveled overseas to Dublin for 2 years) and testers still comment on my ability to hit any situation, ask pertinent questions and make connections. Richard Robinson watched me pull an admin guy’s strategy apart, leaving him with a notepad full of questions to find answers for.

But being Queen of Defocus has its downside, it can if your not careful make you sloppy and shallow in your work. I know this because I’ve fallen into this trap of not paying sufficient attention to detail. I watch out for it now. I’ve learned that not knowing facts can be really embarrassing and I try to avoid that.

But mostly, I’m pretty happy letting my mind wander and reflect and ponder on why sun streaming through the window on an Autumn day fills me with joy. I store these moments away open to the possibility that they may prove helpful one day. On days like this, a bit of defocus is bliss!