Curiosity is a powerful tool in the arsenal of a designer. Asking questions during the design thinking process can help assess a situation and gather valuable insights from the right sources. This can help foster innovation, help the different teams and departments within an organisation align their goals, and also be the spark that ignites the flame of creativity.
For a designer, it is essential to ask questions that everyone understands. These questions need to come from genuine curiosity. Before a designer can come up with the best design solution, they need to have a desire to explore the product deeply. This will not only make their workflow smoothly towards the end goal but also make sure that they are on the right track.
Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With Why’ talks about this in some detail. It mentions how great leaders have the ability to inspire people to take action by asking the right questions. To create a solution, one needs to be able to ask the right question. Without the right question, they will never be able to reach the right solution. The answer will always be wrong, no matter how hard they work.
Every designer has to encounter a set of challenges every single day. These challenges need them to find design solutions that can navigate around business and technical constraints while also fulfilling the needs of the users. While time may be of the essence, the need to find solutions quickly must not repel the designers from understanding the core of the problem, in-depth. The investigative phase where they find out the ‘Why’ should not be ignored at any cost. It is an integral part of the design-thinking process. It is where the right questions need to be asked so that a designer can approach the design problem before they actually start designing it. These questions can trigger the willingness to explore and get the creative juices flowing.
The brain of a designer is programmed to find a good enough solution right away and act upon it when they face similar challenges. But those who want to deliver successful products and services need to look from a unique viewpoint every time in order to build a deeper understanding of the challenge and find valuable insights.
There’s a reason, however, why designers miss out on this crucial step at times. They generally function in fast-paced environments that need them to deliver quick solutions. In such situations, questions like “What’s the need to solve this problem?” or “When did you discover this issue?”, which are questions that can help them understand the underlying causes and needs better, are seen as hurdles that make things time-consuming.
This might be okay at times. But designers also need to be able to help teams establish the direction to prevent them from working on the wrong problems, no matter what’s the timeline.
Just like detectives ask the right questions to find clues and connect the dots to solve cases, designers can also do the same.
In my career, I have seen a lot of other factors, apart from time, that also prevent designers from asking questions. Some are scared that they’ll be labelled as annoying. When a new idea or solution is presented to the team, the questions which can reveal weaknesses can make the people who proposed the idea feel uncomfortable. When someone probes and pokes holes in a solution that you think is perfect, it can lead to a certain level of awkwardness that many designers try to avoid.
A lot of people, including designers, think of designing as an execution level job. As in, decisions are finalised by business and marketing teams, or technology teams while designers just have to develop the final product. But that is not at all true. A good designer can use their questions to expose the value of a product or solution at a strategic level by looking at it from a user’s perspective.
Some designers also avoid asking questions since they lack confidence and training. As with everything in life, asking good questions in a way that portrays one’s will to collaborate and find a better solution, is a matter of training. You get better as you do it more. So get started today and whenever you are starting a new project, start with the why.
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