From early in our development, we are assured that “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Educators, coaches, mentors, and managers all want to ensure that the possibility of exposing one’s ignorance doesn’t blunt the curiosity necessary to learn. That makes perfect sense.
But when it comes to asking questions, there’s a big difference between astute, insightful questions and the uninformed queries that immediately suggest the inquisitor hasn’t done his homework. The former can result in a client’s acknowledgement that they hadn’t considered that angle and it bears some discussion. In contrast, the latter can erode a client’s confidence and trust in your ability to make a project as good as it can be.
As editors, designers, video producers, and content strategists, one of our primary tasks, particularly early in a project, is to ask a lot of questions: for example, what’s new and distinctive here? Who’s the target audience? What channels will be used to promote and distribute content? Only by asking questions can we ensure that we’re hitting our mark—and that clients have given the necessary thought to what they want to accomplish.
In our field, asking good questions is a skill. As with any skill, people can learn to be an effective questioner, and this talent can be refined over time. But it starts with the discipline to do your research, the intelligence to connect the dots, and the confidence (or humility) to demonstrate that you don’t know everything.
One of the things that struck me initially about David Peak, our new editorial associate, is that he asks the right questions of colleagues and clients alike. This quality could come from his bachelor’s and master’s of fine arts in fiction writing; anyone who dissects the classics and attempts to produce his own quality work knows it requires thoughtfulness and introspection.
Or it might be the product of his years at McKinsey & Company as an editorial assistant, during which he was exposed to just about every article that was published on McKinsey.com. Or it may result from his role over the past several years as a teacher of English composition at Harold Washington College. Or, much like good taste or a sense of humor, it may be more innate and instinctual.
Regardless of the reason for this talent, I’m happy that David has joined our team. In addition to handling copyediting duties (he, like myself, learned the ropes from the esteemed Roger Draper at McKinsey), he will be assisting with developmental editing—a task that will benefit greatly from his ability to ask good questions.
As important, David has also added records to the office vinyl collection, greatly broadening the company’s sonic palate in the process and withstanding everyone else’s selections. Curiosity should be a two-way street.
Please join me in welcoming David to the company.