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.
*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