The value of asking

The value of asking


I think we all know the concept of the saying – there are no stupid questions. The idea being that any question that can be asked, should be okay to be asked. However, through experience, I still hear many, many people say: okay, this might be a silly question but… And how many times has that question been a silly or stupid question?

People have different views, different ideas, different expertise and different experiences in their lives. For instance, if you go to a mechanic and you say: “this might be a stupid question, but I hear this on my car and feel this while driving, could that be related to this?” The mechanic will most likelay say: “that’s not a stupid question, this sounds reasonable.” We can translate this into the project side or technical side of things.

You have people with front-end, middleware, server-side or low-level experiences. The front-end group of people might spend most of their time tweaking the user interface and improving the user experience. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have people who look at assembly or other binary things on a daily basis and try their best to improve the performance of the system. These are all different personalities and characters with their own vision on life and on how things work.

And if we look at the previous example, is it a stupid question to be asked by the front-end developer: “what is a kernel exactly?” Well, to the low-level developers, who work day in and day out with bits and bytes, this might seem silly. Yet when they take a step back and realise who they are talking to –  it’s not a stupid question. Because when they realise that their second hand nature is not something everybody experiences, they will realise this is not a stupid question.

Yet if we reverse the roles at hand and have the low-level developers ask: “This might be a stupid question but what exactly does a margin do?” The front-end developers, who know margin and padding like the back of their hand, might think: ‘well that’s silly’, but in context they can realise that maybe it’s not that stupid?

But what if we take it a step back and, say, have a bunch of those developers within the same context (Front-end, Middleware, Server-Side, or Low-Level) talking to each other. One might have 5 years of experience in 10 different companies or projects. The other might have 10 years of experience within the same company. They will have completely different visions and ideas on how to approach certain challenges, because they have had a completely different path in their career. So even at that ‘level’, when one of them asks the other: “This might be a stupid question but why do you do this, this way? And not that way?” Or even one asks: “What is this exactly, I have never seen this before?”

Whether you have a project or a team, with multiple layers of complexity and multiple aspects or not, you are still working together to create a solution and to add value to your product. Using everybody’s different expertises, you can grow and learn. So any person having any question should absolutely be able to ask those questions because we are all on the same team, on the same path and working towards the same goal. And this is important! Because every different experience can help deliver a better product.

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