How to make giving project feedback easy

In a post last week, Seth Godin explained a problem with giving people feedback about their work. In essence, what happens is this. You say ‘I don’t like your logo / artwork / project plan*’, but they hear ‘I suck’ since the work people do is so tied into who they are.

There is a neat way round this though. It’s a trick I learnt from Bill Buxton’s excellent book about sketching, but it applies to much more than just product design.

Rather than asking for a single outcome (‘Tell me how you’re going to market X’), ask for options (‘Give me three serious ways of marketing X’**).

At this point, the person who’s done the work has no motivation to defend their sole proposal beyond all reason. The conversation stops being an argument of “I’m right / you’re wrong” and, instead, becomes a de-personalised deliberation of “here’s a bunch of different ideas; let’s discuss, together, the pros and cons of each one.”

It works, really. Try it.

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*Of course, you try to be constructive about this, but the message is the same

** Note that the ways need to be serious – not two obviously bad ideas and one good one that they guide you towards

One response to “How to make giving project feedback easy”

  1. Mike Glodo says:

    Same reason I urge people to get other ideas into the mix early. They get all “oh, there’s nothing really to discuss yet” and then whammo…. The Thing Arrives
    “I made this at school with cotton and glitter, isn’t it pretty?”
    Who can say no to a kid’s wonderful refrigerator art?
    Best save might be “I really like how the paste on the dry maccaroni takes on the color of the sun.”
    Your baby’s ugly, etc. Like your gambit to engage in alternative discussions. More nuanced than pepper spray.