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How to Take Feedback

By Steve M. Friedman, MFA

 stevefriedman@gmail.com

     BIL Conference

     Long Beach, CA
     March 2-3, 2013
Why do we need feedback?
●   As BILders, we always have projects we're
    working on
●   Nothing is ever perfect. This includes you and
    your work
●   Everyone has their own unique insights and
    perspectives
●   You can't smell your own farts
Who to ask for feedback
●   Smart, helpful, diligent
●   Avoid people at a lower level than you
    –   They'll only be able to give you very general
        comments
Also avoid people at higher level
●   Probably won't want to put in the effort to give
    solid feedback
    – (Unless it's an instructor you're paying to
      help you)
●   Sacrificing an opportunity to impress them with
    your best work
●   Probably more useful to ask for help in other
    ways
Get feedback from people at about
      the same level as you
●   They know they can ask you for feedback at
    some point, so they're more willing to put in
    effort
●   Can learn from each other
Best to get oral feedback from a
              small group
●   Preferable to written or one-on-one feedback
●   Can build on each other's notes
●   Can brainstorm solutions to problems
●   Can ask questions
●   In person, phone, or video-conference
Avoid big groups
●   Dominated by the loudest members, not those
    with the best ideas
●   People wait to make their point, rather than
    build on the conversation
●   Too many cooks push you in different
    directions.
●   Ideal size is 2 or 3 people (plus you.)
Rules of Feedback
1.NEVER ARGUE
2.Remember that you want to know what's wrong
3.Reductive feedback is almost always correct
4.Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise
5.Don't be afraid to ask questions
6.Don't use questions as a stealth means of arguing
7.Get feedback from multiple groups
Rule #1: NEVER ARGUE
●   You're asking people for their opinion. They're
    giving their opinion. They know what their
    opinion is, so they are right and you are
    wrong.
●   Arguing shuts them down. Stops them from
    giving more notes
●   Makes them less interested in helping in the
    future
Rule #1: NEVER ARGUE
●   Arguing closes yourself down to listening
●   If someone “doesn't get” something, it's YOUR
    fault for not making it clear enough.
●   If a comment is stupid, you can always smile,
    nod, write it down, and then ignore it.
    –   But can usually find value in stupid comments
●   Small groups can sanity-check comments
Rule #2: Remember that you want
          to know what's wrong
●   Criticism is much more valuable than praise
●   You can only improve by finding the problems
●   Opposite of our normal lives
    –   We're generally happy when people tell us we're
        doing a good job, and sad or angry when people
        tell us we suck
Rule #2: Remember that you want
    Rule #2: Remember that you want
          to know what's wrong
          to know what's wrong
●
    Avoid grade-school insistence that feedback must be positive
●
    This isn't kindergarten. We aren't trying to boost our self-esteem
●   Want to find out where, how, and why we suck, so we can fix it
●
    Natural tendency to defend ourselves when we feel attacked
    –Do not give in to this temptation
●
    Make sure the people giving feedback understand this
    – Pick people capable of doing it
●
    People who only give positive feedback are worse than useless
Additive vs. Reductive Feedback
●   Additive feedback is when someone tells you
    you should add something
●   Reductive feedback is when someone tells
    you something isn't working
Rule #3: Reductive feedback is
         almost always correct
●   If someone doesn't think something works, it's
    because it truly doesn't work
●   They aren't just complaining to complain
    –   Or if they are, find better people to give you
        feedback
Rule #4: Additive feedback is often
 reductive feedback in disguise
●   Additive feedback may or may not be correct
●   Think about the additive suggestion. If it is a
    good idea, use it.
●   If you recognize reasons why it is a bad idea,
    don't just dismiss it
●   Often people propose an additive solution to a
    reductive problem
Rule #4: Additive feedback is often
 reductive feedback in disguise
●   Natural for some people to try to fix something
    that's wrong
    –   That's exactly the sort of person you want giving
        you feedback
●   Just because their solution doesn't work is not
    a reason to dismiss their concerns
●   Try to figure out the underlying problem
Rule #5: Don't be afraid to ask
                 questions
●   Necessary to clarify confusing reductive feedback
●   Helpful in finding reductive problem behind additive solutions
●   You can suggest solutions that might fix the problem
●   Often leads to getting more and better pieces of feedback
●   If a solution you're thinking of is off-base, better to learn that
    through minutes of talking than months of work
Rule #6: Don't use questions as a
        stealth means of arguing
●   You're only cheating yourself
●   “Oh yeah, well...” principle
Rule #7: Get feedback from multiple
               groups
●   Especially as you move to different stages of a
    project
●   Avoid group-think
●   People who are already familiar with your
    project can become blinded to problems
How to deal with stupid feedback
●   Sometimes someone gives you a suggestion,
    and you immediately recognize it as incredibly
    stupid. How do you respond?
●   Argue
●   Smile and nod, and then ignore it
●   Really think about it
How to deal with stupid feedback
●   If it's reductive feedback, it's almost always correct
●   Did the person giving feedback miss something
    obvious? Or is it not as obvious as you thought?
●   In a small group, a third party can weigh in
●   If it's additive feedback, try to figure out what reductive
    feedback it is a reaction to
●   Ask questions!
●   The dog and the motorcycle
When do you stop taking feedback?
●   Since nothing is ever perfect, could theoretically
    keep taking feedback/revising for rest of your life
●   If you have a deadline, then don't have a choice
●   But what if you're working for yourself?
●   At some point, iterations are more likely to degrade
    project than improve it
●   Learn to recognize when you're in an upswing
Weigh improvements against time
●   Your time could be spent doing something
    else
●   Lost revenue, career opportunities, risk of
    someone else beating you to the market
●   Depriving the world of your creation
●   When to stop is more art than science
Summary
1.NEVER ARGUE
2.Remember that you want to know what's wrong
3.Reductive feedback is almost always correct
4.Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise
5.Don't be afraid to ask questions
6.Don't use questions as a stealth means of arguing
7.Get feedback from multiple groups

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How to Take Feedback by Steve M Friedman

  • 1. How to Take Feedback By Steve M. Friedman, MFA stevefriedman@gmail.com BIL Conference Long Beach, CA March 2-3, 2013
  • 2. Why do we need feedback? ● As BILders, we always have projects we're working on ● Nothing is ever perfect. This includes you and your work ● Everyone has their own unique insights and perspectives ● You can't smell your own farts
  • 3. Who to ask for feedback ● Smart, helpful, diligent ● Avoid people at a lower level than you – They'll only be able to give you very general comments
  • 4. Also avoid people at higher level ● Probably won't want to put in the effort to give solid feedback – (Unless it's an instructor you're paying to help you) ● Sacrificing an opportunity to impress them with your best work ● Probably more useful to ask for help in other ways
  • 5. Get feedback from people at about the same level as you ● They know they can ask you for feedback at some point, so they're more willing to put in effort ● Can learn from each other
  • 6. Best to get oral feedback from a small group ● Preferable to written or one-on-one feedback ● Can build on each other's notes ● Can brainstorm solutions to problems ● Can ask questions ● In person, phone, or video-conference
  • 7. Avoid big groups ● Dominated by the loudest members, not those with the best ideas ● People wait to make their point, rather than build on the conversation ● Too many cooks push you in different directions. ● Ideal size is 2 or 3 people (plus you.)
  • 8. Rules of Feedback 1.NEVER ARGUE 2.Remember that you want to know what's wrong 3.Reductive feedback is almost always correct 4.Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise 5.Don't be afraid to ask questions 6.Don't use questions as a stealth means of arguing 7.Get feedback from multiple groups
  • 9. Rule #1: NEVER ARGUE ● You're asking people for their opinion. They're giving their opinion. They know what their opinion is, so they are right and you are wrong. ● Arguing shuts them down. Stops them from giving more notes ● Makes them less interested in helping in the future
  • 10. Rule #1: NEVER ARGUE ● Arguing closes yourself down to listening ● If someone “doesn't get” something, it's YOUR fault for not making it clear enough. ● If a comment is stupid, you can always smile, nod, write it down, and then ignore it. – But can usually find value in stupid comments ● Small groups can sanity-check comments
  • 11. Rule #2: Remember that you want to know what's wrong ● Criticism is much more valuable than praise ● You can only improve by finding the problems ● Opposite of our normal lives – We're generally happy when people tell us we're doing a good job, and sad or angry when people tell us we suck
  • 12. Rule #2: Remember that you want Rule #2: Remember that you want to know what's wrong to know what's wrong ● Avoid grade-school insistence that feedback must be positive ● This isn't kindergarten. We aren't trying to boost our self-esteem ● Want to find out where, how, and why we suck, so we can fix it ● Natural tendency to defend ourselves when we feel attacked –Do not give in to this temptation ● Make sure the people giving feedback understand this – Pick people capable of doing it ● People who only give positive feedback are worse than useless
  • 13. Additive vs. Reductive Feedback ● Additive feedback is when someone tells you you should add something ● Reductive feedback is when someone tells you something isn't working
  • 14. Rule #3: Reductive feedback is almost always correct ● If someone doesn't think something works, it's because it truly doesn't work ● They aren't just complaining to complain – Or if they are, find better people to give you feedback
  • 15. Rule #4: Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise ● Additive feedback may or may not be correct ● Think about the additive suggestion. If it is a good idea, use it. ● If you recognize reasons why it is a bad idea, don't just dismiss it ● Often people propose an additive solution to a reductive problem
  • 16. Rule #4: Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise ● Natural for some people to try to fix something that's wrong – That's exactly the sort of person you want giving you feedback ● Just because their solution doesn't work is not a reason to dismiss their concerns ● Try to figure out the underlying problem
  • 17. Rule #5: Don't be afraid to ask questions ● Necessary to clarify confusing reductive feedback ● Helpful in finding reductive problem behind additive solutions ● You can suggest solutions that might fix the problem ● Often leads to getting more and better pieces of feedback ● If a solution you're thinking of is off-base, better to learn that through minutes of talking than months of work
  • 18. Rule #6: Don't use questions as a stealth means of arguing ● You're only cheating yourself ● “Oh yeah, well...” principle
  • 19. Rule #7: Get feedback from multiple groups ● Especially as you move to different stages of a project ● Avoid group-think ● People who are already familiar with your project can become blinded to problems
  • 20. How to deal with stupid feedback ● Sometimes someone gives you a suggestion, and you immediately recognize it as incredibly stupid. How do you respond? ● Argue ● Smile and nod, and then ignore it ● Really think about it
  • 21. How to deal with stupid feedback ● If it's reductive feedback, it's almost always correct ● Did the person giving feedback miss something obvious? Or is it not as obvious as you thought? ● In a small group, a third party can weigh in ● If it's additive feedback, try to figure out what reductive feedback it is a reaction to ● Ask questions! ● The dog and the motorcycle
  • 22. When do you stop taking feedback? ● Since nothing is ever perfect, could theoretically keep taking feedback/revising for rest of your life ● If you have a deadline, then don't have a choice ● But what if you're working for yourself? ● At some point, iterations are more likely to degrade project than improve it ● Learn to recognize when you're in an upswing
  • 23. Weigh improvements against time ● Your time could be spent doing something else ● Lost revenue, career opportunities, risk of someone else beating you to the market ● Depriving the world of your creation ● When to stop is more art than science
  • 24. Summary 1.NEVER ARGUE 2.Remember that you want to know what's wrong 3.Reductive feedback is almost always correct 4.Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise 5.Don't be afraid to ask questions 6.Don't use questions as a stealth means of arguing 7.Get feedback from multiple groups