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How to Give Effective Feedback, Both Positive and Negative -

Stashed in: Culture, Pixar, Feedback, Leadership

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2nd page has good tips.

I agree, that article's main punchline is at the end:

Some companies have developed their own terminology for feedback. Peter Sims, author of “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries,” said the film company Pixar used an idea it called “plussing.” The point, he said, is to “build and improve on ideas without using judgmental language.”

Here’s an example he offers in his book. An animator working on “Toy Story 3” shares her rough sketches and ideas with the director. “Instead of criticizing the sketch or saying ‘no,’ the director will build on the starting point by saying something like, ‘I like Woody’s eyes, and what if his eyes rolled left?”

Using words like “and” or “what if,” rather than “but” is a way to offer suggestions and allow creative juices to flow without fear, Mr. Sims said.

Brain scans of people show that judgmental language — or even being told you have to do things in a certain way — lead to self-censoring, Mr. Sims told me. Such scans show that when a musician is playing scales, for example, “the part of the brain responsible for judging lights up,” he said. “That doesn’t happen when playing jazz improvisation.”

Plussing is particularly helpful in the early stages, when there are lots of ways a character can progress, he said, but as ideas become more developed, it gets tougher.

“Animators at Pixar freely describe how painful it can be to have directors plussing their ideas until the smallest details, say a sliver of hair, seems just perfect,” he writes in his book. “But plussing allows for both pointed critique and positive feedback simultaneously, so that even such persistent criticism is not deflating.”

That’s the trick then: making negative feedback precise and timely enough so that it’s helpful but neutral enough so that it’s not perceived as harshly critical. That’s particularly difficult in a culture like ours, where anything short of effusive praise can be viewed as an affront.

But, again, if we look at feedback as an opportunity to make someone work better rather than feel better, we’re more likely to do it successfully. As Professor Fishbach said, “We’re probably unaware that people would like to know how to improve, and they deserve to know it. It’s their right.”

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