Generating constructive feedback is one of the most important principles of creating work that will stick around for years to come. The problem is, not all responses are created equal. So what exactly needs to be done to get the “good” kind of feedback?
The “Good” Kind of Feedback
As humans, we deal with giving each other feedback every day. As such, we know what it’s like to receive feedback we didn’t want, as well as being unable to give to others the feedback they want. To fully understand this problem, we need to find out: What is the kind of feedback you want?
Before you ask others for their thoughts, find out what yours are first. Is there a specific aspect you want feedback on? Do you want positive or negative feedback? Once you feel satisfied with your answers to these questions, it’s time to ask others their thoughts.
The keys to soliciting good feedback can be broken down into what you ask, when you ask, and who you ask. Let’s break these concepts down even further.
The Three Keys
What you ask is one of the first items to consider – how will you approach your respondents? What kind of language will you use? What questions will you ask? According to Sheila Heen, author of “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well,” simply approaching a colleague and asking “What do you think?” is non-conducive to getting good answers. Instead, it’s best to begin with: “What can I improve on?” This way, the respondent will feel more open to providing the constructive criticism you need.
Furthermore, make sure you get specific. Don’t be afraid to ask your respondents for examples! Deconstruct their answer and probe for clarification on vagueness. For example, “I think the color scheme is bland,” could be followed up with another question: “What could be done to improve it?” This process may seem daunting at first, but the more you ask, the more open your respondents will be to providing the answers you seek.
When you ask can be equally important. According to Ed Batista, an instructor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, it’s best to “chop it up into manageable chunks and space out the interactions.” There are a few reasons for this. Asking for feedback throughout the process of creating your project minimizes loss of work if you receive negative feedback. You may be asking, “Isn’t feedback at the end of the creative process?” Technically, yes. But rather than thinking of your project as one giant process, it’s best to think of it as multiple creative processes. This can include designing a logo, picking colors, and making a website (all things we can help with!).
With this in mind, it’s best to get feedback on your individual processes than the project as a whole. In addition, this helps to not overload your respondents. Arresting them for an hour-long feedback session will never be a fun experience. Instead, having multiple bite-sized conversations about specific aspects of your project will elicit a more genuine and thought-out response.
Lastly, we arrive at who you ask. Many people will go directly to their overseer first and only implement their feedback. In reality, diversity in your respondent pool will lead to a wider spectrum of responses. Repeatedly asking one person for feedback will lead to a final product which is as much theirs as yours.
Ideally, asking five to seven people will give you the amount of diversity you need to reach a consensus. More than this number is likely to lead to “answer overload” – dozens of opinions which contrast each other and only make the process more confusing. For example, asking an entire social media network their opinions on a piece of imagery may seem like a perfect way to get an audience consensus, but more often than not does the complete opposite. Be sure to rein in your group!
Moreover, take a step back and look for people who you may not normally think of to ask for feedback. Don’t keep your neck trained upwards on the corporate ladder – your neck will start to hurt! Instead, Harvard Business Review recommends you ask other colleagues at or below your level in addition to those above you to get a truly diverse response pool. Start a feedback loop with these people! Give them feedback as they give to you and create a healthy cycle of constructive criticism. “You’ll get more feedback when you’re giving some,” Batista says.
There you have it! You’re on track to giving and receiving the “good” kind of feedback. Interested in learning more about crafting a brand to stick throughout the years? Check out our post on How A Solid Brand Can Boost Your Business, or contact us for a quote on a professional-grade website for your business.