Avoid defensiveness in receiving feedback. Defensiveness almost inevitably works against high quality problem solving. First, it blinds you to the problems in your problem solving. Second, it discourages others from offering feedback.
Robert Sternberg, The Triarchic Mind: A New Theory of Human Intelligence
It’s the rare person who enjoys feedback. All of us are subject to human frailty. We are uncomfortable under the critical scrutiny of our colleagues, family members, friends — even ourselves. Criticism hurts. Who wants to suffer? We tend to keep our feedback loops closed.
But the habit of seeking and acting on feedback is essential to good thinking, effective problem solving and high performance. Edward DeBono‘s Plus, Minus, Interesting (PMI) is a structured method for providing feedback in a way that is psychologically safe for anyone receiving the feedback. It’s a very simple approach.
- Pluses: First, seek positive feedback and list all the strengths of the idea or solution set.
- Minuses: Second, list the all weaknesses.
- Interesting: Third, complete this statement: “It would be interesting if…”
There are many advantages to PMI. Because it begins by listing all the pluses, PMI makes the feedback safe for the idea generator. Before criticism, there is affirmation. Not only does this step steel the idea generator for the criticism to come, but it indicates what’s at stake and could be lost by rejecting the idea or solution set.
Further, the listing of minuses now prepares for what Tim Hurson calls “generative judgment.” The identified weaknesses provoke additional creative thinking. “It would be interesting to see if…” leads to modifications or extensions that will exploit the pluses and mitigate or eliminate the minuses.
In this way, feedback does not kill ideas but enlivens them; it results not in the pain of rejection but the thrill of creation.
This is a re-post from March 15, 2010.
Image courtesy of AJC