Between The Code

thoughts on coding and everything in between

Creativity & Asking the Right Questions

Developers need to be creative – it is a must. A developer  is more than just someone who slings code. A developer combines their coding abilities with their ability to think creatively to come up with good solutions to meet business needs in a timely fashion.

Sometimes the business may have some kind of idea of what they want, but until you, the developer, build it, they are not completely certain. As many of us know, this can lead to drastic, sometimes discouraging changes in projects. However, we cannot let that slow us down and rob us of our creative solutions to the problems the business presents. Yes, the project you are working on might get scrapped at any point in time, but rather than throw up your hands in frustration that your masterpiece was rejected, why not think about it positively – at least you are getting to spend your time coding!

The other side to that might be that the project you are working on doesn’t get scrapped but every time you provide a solution, the business comes back asking for something different or further modifications. Again, don’t let it discourage you! This is a chance to get better. If we pay attention when that kind of thing happens, we can learn to anticipate what the business wants and eventually help to lead them to the requirements determination instead of being dragged along behind only experiencing the after affects.

Part of learning to anticipate what the business wants and becoming a better developer is learning how to ask the right questions. Notice I said the right questions. It is tempting when we get discouraged (especially when we are trying to be creative) to give up and just start asking very broad questions like “what do you want here?” “what do you want this control to look like?” “what should that report look like?” Those questions are not the questions of a creative developer engaged in what they are doing and eager to give the business a solution they take pride in. Those kinds of questions are a sign of a developer who can quickly become a burden and who is called on less and less to participate in writing new code and more and more is given the menial, uninteresting, lacking in creativity, support items any “code monkey” could handle. This is not a place you want to be. Developers must maintain their creativity in order to maintain their edge.

Another mark of a creative developer is one who is always trying to find another way to do things. Whether it is learning to use a new tool to make you a more efficient coder, or coming up with a solution that might sound a bit unconventional, these traits are what help to build great companies, perhaps even your own if you are so motivated.

So what are the “right” questions? If you are a developer, you already have the ability to think  creatively about a solution, you may just need to exercise a bit of confidence and put yourself out there in order to keep the project moving forward. Back to what the “right” questions are, think about what you would expect your boss to answer in response to your questions about specifics. Think about how you would answer your questions if you were the boss. After you think about these two things, there are fewer questions left unanswered and you are able to start building your application. The right questions then become questions driven by what you already have in place such as “Is this what you’re looking for?” or questions related to specific business rules instead of just “what do I do?” kinds of questions. There are lots of pieces you can build without specific direction. Be creative! Start somewhere. Is there a risk you might get it wrong? Sure. But, even if you are way off base, you have shown initiative (that’s a word that gives your boss the warm fuzzies!) and you have given yourself the opportunity to grow as a developer, perhaps you will have even learned something new in the process. That is worth the risk!

A developer is more than a coder. Good organizations want developers, not just coders. Develop the ability to use your analytical skills with your creative thinking skills to meet the needs of the organization in a valuable way. Be a better developer.

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2 responses to “Creativity & Asking the Right Questions

  1. candeo7 February 16, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    “Think about how you would answer your questions if you were the boss…The right questions then become questions driven by what you already have in place such as ‘Is this what you’re looking for?’”

    Spot on! I will keep this in mind myself.

    “Good organizations want developers, not just coders.”
    You have a positive outlook and sound like you could easily motivate others to grow from coders into developers.

  2. Jeff February 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    I know I got “warm fuzzies” reading this!

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