Recently I came across an article in the New York Times by Adam Bryant who interviews various executives on their challenges leading and managing organizations. The interview I read was with Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO (“He Prizes Questions More Than Answers”). Brown shared a few key lessons he’s learned, like never knowing where your best idea will come from, or the need to engage in ideation early without stifling creativity or ownership. These were great points, but the most significant observation for me was his strong belief that one needs to ask the right questions to receive the best answers when solving design problems.
In the article, Brown suggests that to solve design challenges, you need to “Frame the question the way that no one else would.” As designers we are constantly trying to create solutions that no one has ever imagined and by which peers, users or customers will be impressed and inspired. We want our clients to feel confident that we’ve not only solved their business problem, but that we’ve gone beyond what anyone envisioned the solution could be. Asking questions that foster a more thoughtful response will allow designers to cast a wider net and expand the possibilities for their design solution.
Whatever the right solution is, and however we interpret Tim Brown’s message, the ability to frame meaningful questions separates great from good when it comes to designers and design.