All the clients want answers. They want one answer, to be more precise. The right, the perfect, the ultimate answer. That’s why they hire you, from their point of view. Your boss, managers, peers — they all want answers.
It’s tempting to immediately respond to a challenge and provide an answer and prove your expertise, but giving an answer without understanding the problem won’t help anyone make better design. Restrain yourself and ask questions first.
When I’m faced with a new challenge, I clear up my mind and behave like a 3 year old. As if I have never heard of the subject before. You know when kids ask you dozens of “Whys” until they are able to digest the concept and leave satisfied with your answer? “Dad, why is the Sun yellow? Why does the fire rage on the Sun? What is nuclear reaction? Are other Suns yellow?” And just when you thought you explained everything: “Dad, why is then Rigel blue?” It is this naivety that I need in order to understand the problem space to the extent that it becomes meaningful for me. I see naivety as an essential skill, the one that we lose while we are growing up. If naivety sounds bad to you, think about it as curiosity.
But being naive doesn’t make me incompetent. On the contrary, it helps me remove limitations imposed by the expertise and accumulated knowledge and see further than I already know. Without asking dumb questions I could never understand how things can be improved. And it is only when I am able to digest the problem that I can move forward and start thinking about answers.
Speaking of answers, I am doubtful about the idea that designers solve problems by providing answers. Answer implies finality, immutability, I can’t equate design with that. I love how Frank Chimero explained it in this talk. He suggests that we provide responses instead of answers and I think it better reflects what we do (I suggest you to watch the video). There are simply no finite solutions to design problems. There are no strict answers.
So try not to be pressed with urge to answer. Ask questions instead and think about possible responses.