To Give or Not to Give Feedback (and if so, how)

When was the last time that you had an idea and you had such good feedback that allowed you to implement it? Feedback is necessary for all sort of creators, is the perspective that the author lacks. Yet, good feedback is scarce because it’s not  a matter of opinion, of like or dislike, it’s a responsible reflection on the goal of the designer.

This is not Facebook neither Twitter

In a world in which the gesture of a click entitles us as voters and the same action towards what we publish gives us more or less presence/ importance, giving a reflected-critical response is more and more scarce. It is so easy to love or hate. On the other hand, acting as cheerleaders or as intolerant that lynch the different is a few characters puzzle played daily. In this quotidian landscape, the ability to give feedback needs to be rehearsed and trained.

Our advice in this matter is crystal clear: refrain from giving an impulsive opinion. If you belong to the academic world or to the creative industries and you are not trained in this, apologize and leave the ring, don’t try to make up an easy statement, it’s going to sound obvious. The creator that has spent hours, days, months or even years in a project needs a serious approach to her work. Topics or easy judgment are commonly unfriendly.

So how can we give feedback?

Firstly, by grounding your impressions on the fact that you are there to help the creator see what she can’t see.

Secondly, by organizing your impressions and thoughts in a way that is well structured, has a clear purpose and it’s carefully said.

ACDQ (Advise, Compliment, Doubt, Question)

We have a useful simple tool if you are interested in finding good ways to give feedback (which is clearly by now not an easy task!).  It is a game like activity to use after a presentation, a product idea or a creative project. It guides the feedback into posing questions that are relevant; formulating doubts on parts of the design instead of questioning the whole; complementing specific elements or parts with an explanation, or giving advice towards future steps.

You can print and cut four cards and distribute them in the group, class, audience. Each person or group has one and has to prepare a reflection following one of the four styles proposed. Distribute the cards again so that each person or group is forced to try at least two different ways of giving feedback on the same presentation.

We tried this activity with students in India and in the Netherlands and it had always good results. Of course, it’s just a first step, yet it enhances responsible thinking and careful words.