Ego, Success, and the Art of the Stupid Question

design, research, project definition

The right question can cut to the heart of what your team is trying to achieve — it can bring assumptions to light, save a dying project, or bring excitement and new life to a mediocre product.

But here’s the trick

To get to the right question, we’re going to have to be OK with looking stupid, just for a little while. We’re going to have to get through a lot of bad questions to find the good ones.

Of course there’s such thing as a stupid question, but if my question is mis-informed, I want to know about it. If I don’t even know enough to know that my question is silly, that’s something to be discovered, and fixed, as soon as possible. It’s an opportunity to learn — to get better at what we do.

I’ve had the privilege of being in meetings with all sorts of smart people over the years — inventors, scientists, CEOs — formidable people from all walks of life. Genuine inquisitiveness is one of the traits I admire the most. Not being afraid of looking stupid is another.

And now the twist: there’s an impressive confidence in not knowing something yet, but only being seconds away from changing that. Truly valuable team members care more about a project’s success than they care about looking good in front of a room full of people. Luckily, it’s a skill that can be learned.

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