New projects are a “Creative’s Dream.” They’re like a land of innovation, imagination, and opportunity. You know what I mean? For the next couple of months, you get to stretch your brain muscles and build a huge city of flows and experiences from absolute design-scratch. And one day, you’ll notice that just like how you suddenly became the “tech guy” in your family, you’ve similarly ended up being appointed “Keeper of All Things Creative-looking and Design-y.”
In other words, you’ve been trusted with being the expert in all creative decisions for the project. No problem, of course! After all, you’re a lean-mean-design-machine who devours UX problems for breakfast and wields Photoshop like a skilled samurai-ninja-warrior.
But every now and then… you’re hit with a design challenge or question to which you simply don’t have the answer. As the creative expert, isn’t it your duty to know everything and have all the answers to anything?
Well, In My Expert Opinion…
One of the worst things you can do within a project is pretend you know the answer to something, or worse, get everyone to actually believe your pretend answer. Repeat after me, ”
It’s OK to admit when something is out of the scope of your expertise.” As a matter of fact, the guys at Buffer are leading authorities on not knowing; and rather than saying that they hold all the answers, they make a strong case for being the go-to guys for “thorough research, fascinating statistics, and personal experience.”
Now sure, it may not sound very impressive to be an authority of “not knowing.” But the truth is, we as creatives solve design challenges for a living. While it’s easy to believe you’re getting paid to deliver answers, in reality, you’re getting paid to discover them too. After all, a creative’s way of solving challenges is through discovery and process – it’s in our blood to research, experiment, analyze, and improve. That all starts with being modest enough to acknowledge that while you may not know the answer right now, you’ll do your damnedest to know it soon.
I remember one of the first times I witnessed someone being hit with a question to which they didn’t have an answer. He scrunched his face up, pondered for a couple seconds (which at that time seemed like an eternity), and right when I thought to myself that the client was going to demand an answer from us while simultaneously threatening to rage-quit, my teammate looked back at the client with both determination and authenticity and simply said, “You know, I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s a great question that we should all get to the bottom of.”
The answer my teammate gave taught me an important lesson: when you don’t know an answer, it’s important to call for a group effort, both with your team and your client’s team. Know that it’s okay to be open about what you don’t know, and you should trust everyone involved in the project to support you at all times.
This common ground and collaborative opportunity is honestly one of the top reasons why I love working with our clients at DT. Our projects always require team effort, where it’s not just us delivering work to the client but also our clients pitching in and supporting us all throughout the creative process. Included in this collaboration is the admission when we’re out of our element. That’s when modesty kicks in and leads to trust, transparency, empathy, and the final result ends up being that much better for it.