I subscribe to a weekly email newsletter from Tobias van Schneider. (Which I highly recommend!) He’s a well-known designer with an impressive client history; BMW, Google, Red Bull, NASA, Wacom, Sony, and Spotify. Also co-founder of Semplice, a website portfolio builder. (I’ve checked out the site and it seems like a great service for designers, but I want to try it out before I give any recommendations.)
Every Monday morning I can expect an email in my inbox—usually speaking to designers, but those outside the design world can also find relevance in a lot of the topics. I really enjoyed this past Monday’s subject, it was called ‘The Art of Asking Stupid Questions.’ He writes about the importance of asking questions, even if they may seem stupid at first.
"We either avoid asking dumb questions simply because we don’t want to appear dumb in front of our peers, or we avoid them because we’re afraid of the potential answer. Both are pretty good reasons to just shut the fuck up and carry on, let the status quo remain as the only truth we know. Funnily enough, the fear of looking stupid (and therefore not asking a question) is actually making us more stupid."
Just like the common phrase, there’s no such thing as a dumb question, Tobias takes the same point of view in his writing. “Asking stupid questions shows that you have the courage and you’re not intimidated by the situation. It shows that you’re willing to go to the core to figure things out.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to ask questions, out of fear of looking stupid. I hear ya! I’ve been in client meetings or large groups and didn’t want to be the ‘one’ to ask that question everyone in the room seemed to know the answer to. I didn’t want to feel like a fool when people reacted with eye rolls and smirks. I wanted to be viewed as an intelligent and knowledgeable person. But what if holding back those questions to save myself from potential embarrassment was actually hindering my ability to learn? I definitely don’t want that!
This email newsletter topic is a good reminder to put our egos aside and be curious, ask naive questions, and expect to be wrong every now and then to continue to learn. If you have a question, chances are, someone else has it too.