Ask a question

When I want to find out more about my own work, I ask a question. When someone asks me to look at their work, I ask a question. It’s a silly thing to say, but it took me years to do that.

It’s silly because it’s probably obvious to you, or to anyone who’s thought about it for a moment: If you want to get a better understanding of something, asking a question is infinitely more useful than making a statement.

It took me years to get there because I fell into the same trap many young designers do when in a critique—I tried to participate by offering answers.

Answers are appealing, of course, as is the idea of a charismatic leader who has pockets full of them. But of all the work I’ve done, the projects I consider most successful were accomplished by teamwork. Answers shouldn’t come from one single person, no matter how skilled they may be. Instead, they come as a result of discussion among peers.

Asking questions is at the heart of collaboration, more so than any project management software or process. And if you want to truly collaborate, I’ve found you need to allow yourself to be someone without the answers.

This piece originally appeared on The Pastry Box Project.