8 Ways to Spark Inspiration with Creative Feedback

January 2, 2014by Sean Mullen

“Make it pop.” We’ve all heard it, and at some point, we may have even said it. Feedback like this provides little direction on where to go next.

The people behind the work will always benefit from a roadmap for taking action, opening up all kinds of possibilities for making the work better.

This is where actionable feedback comes in. Actionable feedback is a catalyst in the creative process. It leads to better ideation and allows the creative team to work more efficiently. Follow these eight tips to provide the best possible feedback:

1. Get everyone on the same page.
The work wasn’t created in a vacuum. It was created from a brief or Message Strategy. Make sure to review that document. It is, after all, the foundation you’ll need to determine if the work is working.

2. It’s not about you.
It doesn’t matter what YOU think. It matters what the target market thinks. Pause and put yourself in the customers’ shoes. What would they think? Sometimes it’s easy to do and sometimes it’s a stretch. The most important thing is to make the effort.

3. Let the work sink in.
Don’t dismiss an idea too fast. Likewise, don’t fall in love too fast. Instead, engage in conversation about the ideas. Oftentimes you will discover something you missed.

4. Think big picture first.
Initial reactions to projects tend to drift toward the details. It’s fine to pick up on subtleties—and eventually you’ll dive in—but losing yourself in the details is a waste if the idea isn’t going to make it out of the room.

5. Clarify what your feedback is about: idea or execution.
Is it the idea or the concept that’s driving the work, or the details and processes that bring the work to life? For instance, if the idea of using a sports car to demonstrate how “fast” your product is doesn’t work, try another route. If this idea works and they use a red sports car (execution), but you dislike red, it’s okay to hang onto the idea. Be prepared to explain the “why.” Knowing why something works or doesn’t work establishes the framework to pivot with the creative.

6. Be honest.
Share your thoughts in their entirety without worrying about stepping on toes (or egos). Delivering honest feedback sooner rather than later allows the creative team to solve any problems and guide the idea in the right direction.

7. When giving feedback, use language like this:
“I’m wishing for…”
“Have you considered…?”
“What would happen if…?”
It gives you a way to organize your thoughts. It acknowledges that a lot of thinking has already been done and it lets you make actionable suggestions.

8. Summarize the feedback and decisions
Feedback can have an ebb and flow that isn’t always linear and structured. Make sure everybody hears and understands the same thing. Have you decided on where you want to focus your energy? Is there more work to be done? And most importantly, who needs to accomplish what by when?

The next time you’re part of a creative review process, keep these tips in mind. Not only will it allow the people doing the work to hear what they need (and want) to hear, it will help keep the project moving down the right path.

Do you have tips on giving or receiving feedback? Share it with us in the comments.

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