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How to Take Feedback by Steve M Friedman

The slides from my talk at the BIL conference on March 3, 2013.

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How to Take Feedback by Steve M Friedman

  1. 1. How to Take FeedbackBy Steve M. Friedman, MFA stevefriedman@gmail.com BIL Conference Long Beach, CA March 2-3, 2013
  2. 2. Why do we need feedback?● As BILders, we always have projects were working on● Nothing is ever perfect. This includes you and your work● Everyone has their own unique insights and perspectives● You cant smell your own farts
  3. 3. Who to ask for feedback● Smart, helpful, diligent● Avoid people at a lower level than you – Theyll only be able to give you very general comments
  4. 4. Also avoid people at higher level● Probably wont want to put in the effort to give solid feedback – (Unless its an instructor youre 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. 5. Get feedback from people at about the same level as you● They know they can ask you for feedback at some point, so theyre more willing to put in effort● Can learn from each other
  6. 6. Best to get oral feedback from a small group● Preferable to written or one-on-one feedback● Can build on each others notes● Can brainstorm solutions to problems● Can ask questions● In person, phone, or video-conference
  7. 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. 8. Rules of Feedback1.NEVER ARGUE2.Remember that you want to know whats wrong3.Reductive feedback is almost always correct4.Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise5.Dont be afraid to ask questions6.Dont use questions as a stealth means of arguing7.Get feedback from multiple groups
  9. 9. Rule #1: NEVER ARGUE● Youre asking people for their opinion. Theyre 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. 10. Rule #1: NEVER ARGUE● Arguing closes yourself down to listening● If someone “doesnt get” something, its 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. 11. Rule #2: Remember that you want to know whats wrong● Criticism is much more valuable than praise● You can only improve by finding the problems● Opposite of our normal lives – Were generally happy when people tell us were doing a good job, and sad or angry when people tell us we suck
  12. 12. Rule #2: Remember that you want Rule #2: Remember that you want to know whats wrong to know whats wrong● Avoid grade-school insistence that feedback must be positive● This isnt kindergarten. We arent 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. 13. Additive vs. Reductive Feedback● Additive feedback is when someone tells you you should add something● Reductive feedback is when someone tells you something isnt working
  14. 14. Rule #3: Reductive feedback is almost always correct● If someone doesnt think something works, its because it truly doesnt work● They arent just complaining to complain – Or if they are, find better people to give you feedback
  15. 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, dont just dismiss it● Often people propose an additive solution to a reductive problem
  16. 16. Rule #4: Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise● Natural for some people to try to fix something thats wrong – Thats exactly the sort of person you want giving you feedback● Just because their solution doesnt work is not a reason to dismiss their concerns● Try to figure out the underlying problem
  17. 17. Rule #5: Dont 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 youre thinking of is off-base, better to learn that through minutes of talking than months of work
  18. 18. Rule #6: Dont use questions as a stealth means of arguing● Youre only cheating yourself● “Oh yeah, well...” principle
  19. 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. 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. 21. How to deal with stupid feedback● If its reductive feedback, its 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 its additive feedback, try to figure out what reductive feedback it is a reaction to● Ask questions!● The dog and the motorcycle
  22. 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 dont have a choice● But what if youre working for yourself?● At some point, iterations are more likely to degrade project than improve it● Learn to recognize when youre in an upswing
  23. 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. 24. Summary1.NEVER ARGUE2.Remember that you want to know whats wrong3.Reductive feedback is almost always correct4.Additive feedback is often reductive feedback in disguise5.Dont be afraid to ask questions6.Dont use questions as a stealth means of arguing7.Get feedback from multiple groups

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