Successful graduates reflect on the importance of feedback in their work.
Sean Harris: I deal with feedback by trying to work out how I can improve from what's been said to me, and trying not to take it personally.
Lila Azouz: My strategy is very simple - it's to breathe. Because I'm a very sensitive person, I have to breathe when someone is giving me feedback as I can feel my temper or something coming up. So I go - OK, breathe - and hear what they have to say.
Sean: Quite often when you get feedback, it's honest and it hurts. I don't think that changes even as you get more and more feedback, it always hurts a little bit.
Alfred Bovadgis: The first thing I do when someone gives me negative feedback is to think about why are they saying this, and how I can dig for more information as to why they are saying this. I never say things like, no, this can't be done, this is the way it's meant to be, and shut down their critique straight away.
Sean: The quicker I get into fixing some of the problems, the quicker I feel better about it.
Lila: I think about - what are the things I can actually change that they're criticising, and also, what are they criticising that I have no control over. This is because sometimes, you just don't have control over certain things, so then I let those things go. For the things I do have control over, I say, OK how can I improve those?
Alfred: The three tips that I would give on accepting feedback is - don't discredit the person straight away by shutting them down, as you shut down insights. The second thing I would say is be a good listener and write down what they're saying, as it shows that you're focused. The third thing I would say is to actually follow through the things that you say you're going to do.
Sean's tips: One is to try to accept the feedback, as this can be really hard to do.
Two would be to try and look for the value you can get out of that feedback. Even if someone is just really angry and they're giving you angry feedback, there's still something to learn out of that.
The third would include trying to improve yourself from that feedback - how you can improve so that next time you will get better feedback.
Lila: I think the most important thing is to just breathe, listen, and see what you can do with it (the feedback).
Sean: Feedback is getting an outside perspective on work that you've done from someone who isn't as close to it as you.
Alfred: Feedback is a way of us perfecting and bettering something that we've been working on.
Lila: (Feedback is) someone being able to comment on your work and provide you with constructive criticism, where they say, "Ok, this is what's working, this is what's not working, and this is how you can improve things."
Alfred: In my first year of industrial design, I got very angry about people critiquing my work, since I put so many hours into it.
Sean: … and they basically just shredded it. They said it was terrible and pointed out all these things that I sort of glossed over, or hadn't thought much about.
Lila: I took everything personally and I cried every time someone gave me feedback, because it was like an attack on myself.
Sean: (It felt) pretty bad. It was like a big kick in the guts.
Alfred: I think it's natural for a creative person to get very angry. But as your maturity grows and you show more and more people your design work, you realise that those people are only wanting your design work to be even better and more detailed. Feedback is vital to having a good design in the marketplace.
Sean: My supervisor gave me some encouragement and said, “Even though it's [the feedback] very blunt, it's also true and it's something that you can improve on, so you should try to use it in a positive way and use it to improve your work.” So I did.
Lila: I think for me, feedback is very important for the learning process because it allows you to reflect on what you're doing and see where you can improve.
Sean: I think when you do the work yourself, you get a bit closer to it, and you value it because you put a lot of work into it – not necessarily because it's good or bad. It would be hard to see it objectively when you're so close (to it). But when having someone else come in and evaluate it, they don't value it because of the work you put into it, but they value it objectively because of what it's supposed to do.
Alfred: All feedback is good. Even bad feedback, if it's completely unconstructive, still has elements inside it for why someone has thought this way about your product, design, paper or project. It's important you understand the angle that they're coming from. So I would say all feedback is positive in some way, it's just up to you as the person taking the feedback to dig into the insights out of what people are saying.
Did you know that the way we think about feedback impacts on whether we learn and grow, or remain the same and stagnant. Try to think of feedback as an opportunity; a door for growth and development. Be open and curious, and try and separate feedback from your self-worth. Of course, we all like to hear positive feedback and praise, but we often learn our greatest lessons from constructive feedback as it can pinpoint ways for us to improve.
In her book "Mindset," Carol Dweck urges us to reflect upon events in the past which may have a measure of worth. Maybe a test score, being fired from a job, being rejected, etc. Try and focus on that event - feel the emotions and go with it.
Now, shift your thinking. Look honestly at your wrong and try to understand that it doesn't define your intelligence or personality. Instead ask what did I, or what can I learn from that experience? How can I use that as a basis for growth? Carry that mindset with you, and let it shape your internal experience.
So to get the most out of feedback, try to see future reviews, critiques and assessments as an opportunity. An opportunity to have a conversation. A conversation about the skills you need to get where you want to go, or to be the person that you want to be.
Strategies to help you get the most out of feedback.
At some point of Uni, you will be assessed on something that you have created. Whether this experience is a constructive one that will help you grow or one that will make you feel diminished will depend on the way you think about it.
So what are some useful strategies for getting the most out of feedback? Start by reflecting on your work, before your presentation, critique or review. Think about how you can best communicate your ideas and intentions. Experiment with shifting your perspective. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. What do you think works? What doesn't? Be honest with yourself. Anticipate any questions and work out some of your own. Like - if I had to make two suggestions about my work, what would they be? What are my strengths? Think about how you might answer these questions.
When receiving feedback, it may feel natural to become defensive, or explain away the criticism. Try not to justify, argue a point, or take what is said personally. Instead, let the other person finish completely, and try to listen actively. Ask questions, and perhaps write down their suggestions. Reflect thoughtfully on what you've heard. Afterwards, think objectively about your work, and consider what parts of the feedback will be useful for helping you move forward.
So when it comes to making the most of feedback, be sure to consider the following. Feedback is just information. Think of it as a way for developing your potential. Try to shift your focus from the personal to the bigger picture. How can this feedback help me? Ask questions, and if the feedback is vague, as for specifics. After the feedback, reflect on what was said. Was it helpful? How can you use this feedback to move forward?
If you need to change and take on board things that were said, acknowledge that this could take time.
So be patient and set realistic goals. No matter what we do, or how we do it, some feedback is eventually going to come our way. These are often some of the toughest moments we face in work, study and life. Hearing potentially negative things about yourself or your work is probably not your favourite activity, and most of us would rather avoid the awkwardness that comes from hearing that others think we can improve. But keep in mind, you lose out when you avoid these tough conversations. Being able to receive advice, feedback and even criticism is one of the fundamental skills of life. By being able to embrace feedback in all its forms, you'll have an opportunity to grow and be the person that you want to be. So go for it! Good luck.