Your Design Work is Suffering Because You're Afraid of the Wrong Answer

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It's hard to accept you might be wrong and don't know what you're talking about. That's because we're socially ingrained to think that questions are a burden, that we need to have the right answers all the time. And if you don't you could be seen as an impostor.

We learn that it's wrong to ask people questions, such as "why did you paint your house that color" or "why are you still dating that person." You can be seen as offensive for asking why. Why? (See what we did there.) Because it implies that someone made the wrong decision. But that doesn't necessarily have to be the case, and it certainly doesn't mean the questioner is being confrontational. Really, in most cases, the asker wants to understand the thinking behind a decision.

Why is a powerful thing to ask if you really want to get to the bottom of something. Journalists ask lots of questions to get the scoop, and often they start with the "why" of the five w's and h. And you have to keep asking why. It's not enough to ask it once, or twice. How many? Five times to be exact.

Why, Why, Why, Why, Why

High-performing Product Designers are obsessed with the rush they get when they crack a problem. They can't stop until they achieve it. Doing something for the sake of just doing it is not enough. They need a higher purpose — they need to know why!

We found that asking why five times helps us when asking big questions on our quest for answers. It prevents us from being superficial and merely covering up problems with a bandaid. We can get to the root of a problem. More importantly, it allows us to challenge assumptions. And as we all know, when you assume you make a donkey out of you and me.

Asking why is what led us to figure out why Forrst as a community wasn't thriving. We started with the question, "why isn't Forrst working?" We then dug deeper, asking why people weren't engaged and why folks weren't asking for critical feedback. Those questions led us to see the dribbblification of design on Forrrst.

We got to the root of the problem. We learned that getting critical feedback requires a strong presentation that upfronts context and asks for feedback in the right way. So why weren't people doing it? Because it takes a lot more work than just posting pretty pixels. And when the presentation is lacking, so is the feedback. Part of the problem was that folks weren't asking why — "why was a button in that particular spot" or "why is the call to action buried."

You'll Never be a Great Designer, Unless You Get Over Being Afraid

We're obsessed with asking questions, which is why we took Forrst and turned it upside down into Tavern, a Product Design community where people answer one question a day. Questions are important, and people didn't want to answer every question on Forrst.

With Tavern, the questions are curated, so you don't have to waste time finding the ones you want to answer. We've already had a lot of interesting questions so far, including one that asks:

"How do you deal with impostor syndrome?"

Which really goes back to our point about asking questions, where you can feel like you need to have all the answers. Tavern-goer Gabriel Friedman had an excellent answer:

Put another way: 'impostor syndrome' may just be another way to describe the anxiety that can accompany the need to constantly learn. Not necessarily a bad thing, if it spurs learning, but it's still anxiety.

Don't be afraid to ask questions and don't be afraid of being wrong. That's how you get to the right answers, elevate any anxiety and become a great product designer. And always start with why.

If you're interested in asking questions, join us on Tavern.

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