May 26

Think back to a moment when you were presenting your work to some- one who simply didn’t get it. Maybe they poked at your work and started making suggestions about how to improve it. Maybe they started decon- structing it before you even had a chance to explain your rationale.

It’s frustrating, right? After all, you’ve just spent days or weeks on something only to have someone who’s thought about it for two minutes tell you what’s wrong with it.

Because creative work is often so subjective, offering feedback requires an empathetic approach. Rather than critiquing the end prod- uct, aim to understand the mindset that led to that result so that you can understand the rationale for decisions and offer corrective ideas with context.

Instead of immediately poking holes in the work, identify something about the work that doesn’t seem to work well. Then offer something like, “This is an interesting choice. Help me understand why you took this approach.” As they share, listen for any comments that indicate that they possibly misunderstood the objective or made an error of judgment. Then ask, “Instead of doing X, what if you chose to do Y? How might that change your approach to this project?” Allow them to work through the problem. By doing this, you not only ensure that this project will be successful, but you also help them better understand how to think about future ones as well.

When giving feedback about creative work, don’t prescribe. Ask questions about process.


Do you need to rethink the way that you—or your team members—offer feedback?

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