PDF Going Critical: How To and Why To Give and Take Proper Criticism

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We can call this our theory of excellence. If you aspire to lead, your firm might use a degree feedback tool to measure you against its predefined leadership competencies and then suggest various courses or experiences that will enable you to acquire the competencies that your results indicate you lack. But as it turns out, in extrapolating from what creates our own performance to what might create performance in others, we overreach.

Research reveals that none of these theories is true. The more we depend on them, and the more technology we base on them, the less learning and productivity we will get from others. The first problem with feedback is that humans are unreliable raters of other humans. In other words, the research shows that feedback is more distortion than truth. And because your feedback to others is always more you than them, it leads to systematic error, which is magnified when ratings are considered in aggregate.

Unfortunately, we all seem to have left math class remembering the former and not the latter. Consider color blindness. Our inability to rate others on them is predictable and explainable—it is systematic. We cannot remove the error by adding more data inputs and averaging them out, and doing that actually makes the error bigger. When a feedback instrument surveys eight colleagues about your business acumen, your score of 3.

The only realm in which humans are an unimpeachable source of truth is that of their own feelings and experiences. Doctors have long known this. Instead, she can be confident that you are the best judge of your pain and that all she can know for sure is that you will be feeling better when you rate your pain lower.

Your rating is yours, not hers. You may read that workers today—especially Millennials—want to know where they stand. You may occasionally have team members ask you to tell them where they stand, objectively. We may not be able to tell him where he stands, but we can tell him where he stands with us. Those are our truths, not his. Again, the research points in the opposite direction. There are two reasons for this. The first is that, neurologically, we grow more in our areas of greater ability our strengths are our development areas.

Some parts of it have tight thickets of synaptic connections, while others are far less dense, and these patterns are different from one person to the next. According to brain science, people grow far more neurons and synaptic connections where they already have the most neurons and synaptic connections. Second, getting attention to our strengths from others catalyzes learning, whereas attention to our weaknesses smothers it.

In one experiment scientists split students into two groups. The scientists probed the other group about homework and what the students thought they were doing wrong and needed to fix. While those conversations were happening, the scientists hooked each student up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine to see which parts of the brain were most activated in response to these different sorts of attention.

In the brains of the students asked about what they needed to correct, the sympathetic nervous system lit up. Your brain responds to critical feedback as a threat and narrows its activity. In the students who focused on their dreams and how they might achieve them, the sympathetic nervous system was not activated. What findings such as these show us is, first, that learning happens when we see how we might do something better by adding some new nuance or expansion to our own understanding.

We spend the bulk of our working lives pursuing excellence in the belief that while defining it is easy, the really hard part is codifying how we and everyone else on our team should get there. Excellence is idiosyncratic. Take funniness—the ability to make others laugh. Excellence seems to be inextricably and wonderfully intertwined with whoever demonstrates it. Which means that, for each of us, excellence is easy, in that it is a natural, fluid, and intelligent expression of our best extremes.

Excellence is also not the opposite of failure. But in virtually all aspects of human endeavor, people assume that it is and that if they study what leads to pathological functioning and do the reverse—or replace what they found missing—they can create optimal functioning. That assumption is flawed. Study disease and you will learn a lot about disease and precious little about health. Here we have a spread from a book, followed by two possible critical responses to it. Rivers between columns Font is crazy small!

Font too light Too much whitespace — look at my project! Poor font choice — try a serif Margins too small.

Thanks for asking me to take a look at your draft. Given the size format of the book, the text is set very small and in a very light weight. Did you consider any other typefaces? At the moment the rivers of whitespace between columns are a bit distracting. Did you see that article on Designlab the other day about calculating gutters and margins? Man, I love those guys!


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Hope that helps! The illustrations, by the way, are looking fantastic are you going to offer them as prints? You totally could! Before reading on, compare the two critiques above and write down five ways that they are different from one another. Something you might have noticed about the example of good critique above is that it uses questions to raise awareness of a problem and invite a response. Socratic questioning is based on the idea that we can maximize critical reflection by asking searching, open questions rather than by telling people the answer that we have in mind.

In general, the difference between good and bad critique is that it sits between extremes of negativity and positive think of Goldilocks, who tried porridge that was too hot and too cold before finding the one that was just right.

Each row in the table below presents twelve different aspects of critique. Just right :. Understanding good and bad critique in this framework not only helps us to give better feedback to others; it also helps us to assess critiques of our own work. We can now identify critique that has really engaged with the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and formed a considered judgement. We can also spot critique that has failed to engage with the brief, is unconstructive or too one-sided… and when the critic was just in a bad mood it happens to everyone.

A strategy for overcoming the defensive instinct is to explain rather than defend :. Similarly, there will come a time towards the end of every project when feedback is simply disagreement rather than critique. Quite a few of us find it almost as hard to accept praise as we do to value critique. Ever had this conversation with someone? I love it! The final colour scheme worked out so well. It was the first thing I saw when I walked in the room.

How To Give And Receive Design Critique Well | Designlab

It can be tempting to downplay our achievements. Sometimes this response comes from a good place — for example, not wanting to seem full of ourselves. But more often it comes from a bad place — a lack of belief in our work, or too little regard for our own efforts and successes. If you often find yourself responding to praise in this way, there is a simple disputing behaviour you could try adopting. Importantly, by accepting the compliment, we also express respect for the person who has chosen to engage with our work and support us in it.

Recently I saw someone handle a tough […]. One of the best skills creatives need to learn is how to convert criticism into useful feedback. A good review, in the sense […]. This automatically surrounds your impending comment with negative […]. Good criticism serves one purpose: to give the … […]. How to give and receive criticism. Click here to cancel reply.

How to Give and Receive Criticism

Skip to content Good feedback is rare. Assumptions bad critics make There are four fundamental assumptions bad critics make: There is one universal and objective measure of how good and bad anything is. That the critic is in sole possession of the skill for making these measurements.


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That valid criticism can and should always be resolved. How to give critical feedback The verb criticize, once a neutral word somewhere between praise and censure, is now mainly used in a negative sense. To do this you need to do the following: Before you speak, know the goals : What problem is the work trying to solve? What are the goals? Remember the frying pan? If the problem is at the level of intention, discussion will ensue at that level instead of trying and failing to sort out intentions at the level of specific design choices.

Your personal preferences only get in the way of providing the work and its maker or possible consumers with useful information. Learn to see the good and respectable attributes in work you do not like: they are there if you let yourself see them. The idea is simple: find a way to alternate your feedback. Find something positive, then find something negative, then find another positive thing. However I have seen it work as a way to get strangers to warm up to each other, and eventually grow out of this little pattern of behavior.

Shut up. Just shut up and listen. Creators often fall into the trap of speaking for their work, trying to use words to defend things that should be in the design. This is a form of denial: The work has to speak for itself. Even if only for a few minutes, let the prototype or draft be its own thing, and stand on its own. Thinking takes time.

Going Critical: How To and Why To Give and Take Proper Criticism

Try to talk as little as possible, and let the time be used for critique, not for defense. Ask clarifying questions. Again, avoid filling the conversation with defensive chatter. Can you show me exactly what you mean?

Good managers give constructive criticism—but truly masterful leaders offer constructive praise

It makes the critique into a dialog, which is what it should be, and not a courtroom trial. Refer back to the goals. Ask whoever is giving you feedback to do so in terms of those goals or your derivations of them.