In tech, asking questions is key. Whether you’re kicking off development for a new feature, trying to understand the insights being shared at a conference, or learning more about a job opportunity during an interview, a well asked question can have a significant positive impact. It can highlight edge cases your team didn’t consider, inspire healthy debate, or show you’ve clearly done your research. I just recently attended the ConveyUX conference in Boston that made me think about the types of questions that can be asked and how some people have taken the popular phrase; “there’s no such thing as a stupid question”, to an extreme.
And let me clearly caveat this post by saying that I’m 100% supportive of people who are genuinely curious and want to learn more and whatever my opinions may be, everyone has the right to ask whatever question they want, BUT I do believe there should be a level of introspection before asking questions.
The main point I want to get across is definitely not that you shouldn’t ask any questions, but that you should think about the below parameters before asking a question.
Time & Place
A popular phrase that I do agree with is that there is a time and place for everything. For example, the phrase of “there being no such thing as a stupid question” works really well in education environments, especially with children. Children, who are still growing and learning, should never feel afraid to ask a question that they might worry everyone else already knows the answer to. When you’re a child in school, your main goal is to learn, so ask away!
But, this varies drastically from our goal as adults in the workplace. While learning is an aspect of working, there are many other goals, such as accomplishing a task, being more productive, or impressing your colleagues so that you can get a promotion or raise. In these instances, there are many stupid questions you could ask.
Asking a stupid question could greatly hinder these workplace goals without adding any value. It could take time away from colleagues trying to finish their work, it could confuse people and cause unnecessary circling of conversations, or it could show your lack of knowledge on a particular area (that you should already have at your level of expertise).