I don’t know everything.
Shocked? I know, I know. Me too.
In all seriousness, I love asking questions. I like to know how things work, why, and what my involvement means. When it comes to design projects, wrapping my head around a problem is essential to serving the business and users. This usually means that I’m asking questions before I begin, and many more that pop up as I immerse myself into understanding, up through the solution phase. It’s my job to make sure I cover all my bases, one which I take seriously. It’s also one that I know results in the best process.
Unfortunately, I've had a few colleagues over the years translate this into me having no idea what I was doing. And to be honest, there were times I let that rub off on me and hinder my confidence. Surely I should know the answer, or not need to know all the details to do my job. I let them make me feel like asking was a weak trait. I’ve had managers who wouldn’t even make time to respond to me, because they just didn’t understand why the answer was important to my job. It also made me stop asking, stalled progress and resulted in work I wasn’t proud of.
I can also remember times where I would start a project, feel lost, and not really be able to pinpoint why. Or, get so far with it and hit the same wall. I would either muster up the courage to ask questions, or I would research as much as I could and do my best.
Over time, I've learned that when I'm stuck it's always because I need more information. There are even times when I’m not sure what that missing information is until I keep looking at the problem from different angles, researching, and asking more questions. But I know that is the key now. I won’t give up until I feel pulled in direction, indicating that I’ve enough information to keep moving in the current phase. I’ve also learned that those who question this approach typically don’t have much of an idea of how design works.
When I use these approaches after feeling lost, the pieces always come together. After the problem is fully formed, there is a clear path that opens up into a meadow of fresh ideas and I come out the other side fueled creatively.
If you’re afraid to ask questions, try pushing yourself to do it more. Once you reap the time savings and better work you’ll be able to create, you’ll feel confident and you won’t stop. After all, we’re all responsible for doing our best to get the job done. This is part of being resourceful and smart.
As a leader, allowing creatives to ask questions shows trust and understanding in the process. Please encourage and not hinder curiosity. It’s what truly solves problems.