Giving good feedback

The idea of feedback is to arrive at a point of mutual interest together in the shortest possible time. If this is the motivation, the person giving the feedback is as much responsible for the design as the designer himself/herself. So how does one give useful feedback? Maybe there are some steps to follow:

1. Have the interest of the project in mind. Usually one of the reasons people provide feedback is to feed their own ego. This is usually the case in design by committee, where the designer presents the work in a meeting and the person speaking is just doing so in order to make themselves feel important. Even if the feedback is important, having the wrong motivation while giving it might prove counter productive. Before you give the feedback, think for a moment. Do you really have the best intentions in mind?

2. Give a reason and a possible alternative. It’s easy to say you don’t like a particular color. But to articulate why you think the particular design won’t work and give an alternative that you think is right is quite important. Otherwise you are not being constructive in your feedback.

3. Have respect. A lot of time you may be unknowingly responsible for the design problems you see in other’s design. Are you respectful in giving feedback? It’s not about the tone. Or the body language. It is often about the attitude. You need to ask yourself, do you respect the person whom you are giving feedback to? If not, both are better off doing something else.

4. Better communication. Sometimes, your words may not convey the intent clearly. Use a whiteboard, a paper/pencil or what every is a quick way to illustrate your feedback. Doing this conveys a good interest from your end in making the idea work and also encourages the other person to communicate better the next time.

5. HIPPO opinions need not be the best. Google has the concept of a HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) while this might be good feedback it is good to remove this bias as each feedback idea should have the ability to stand on its own.

6. Build on what is presented. Most ideas that are presented will carry with them some form of attachment to the idea. It is very difficult if you trash the ideas and propose new ones in their place. Very often there will be some positive in that which is presented. Look for it and try and highlight the good. The rework the one that can be improved. Finally provide the new idea that you have the last and if possible try and show that the idea stemmed out of one of the ideas that were presented. This is a good way to feed the ego of the person looking for feedback and make them go back to the drawing board feeling good.

7. Have an open mind. Finally accept the idea that you could be wrong. There is nothing wrong on being wrong as long as the project moves in the right direction.

Finally there might be rare occasions that you feel giving feedback is futile. Usually this happens when you feel you no longer want to work with the person you are giving feedback to. Firstly such occasions are very rare. But they sometime do come about. For example, at Google we never explained to interview candidates why they did not make the cut. While this might save a lot of time in the interview process (and more importantly save a lot of awkward interactions), in most cases you will run into people in the industry very often. So it might actually be a good practice to provide feedback just in case you run into each other again. That said if the person at the other end is not receptive to feedback at all it might be a good reason to reconsider. That’s probably the only time you may want to reconsider the time spent towards feedback.

That said this blog seems like it is not open for feedback as the comments are disabled. However, you are really welcome to provide feedback. You can either do it on my Flipboard magazine or my Facebook Page. Looking forward to feedback from you.

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