So, let me recapitulate what we have discussed so far in terms of Killer Traits (KT) (on a side note: this involuntarily became a series, but that’s the beauty of blogging, isn’t it?)
In KT#1 I explained that you need to keep a sense of urgency in terms of crafting a first draft. And that’s because you simply cannot pretend to hold a visualization in your head. Sketches on paper might help, but there’s nothing like having it in front of you on your screen.
In KT#2 I proposed a second skill to counterbalance the first one: exploring several alternatives before focusing on one. I argued that this is the only way to achieve “graphical excellence” (as Tufte would call it).
Now KT#3 is another complement to the previous ones. And a fundamental one! Always actively seeking criticism for your work and, as a corollary, being ready to dump your own work when necessary.
That’s damn tough folks!!! I can tell you, it always hurts when you have to expose yourself to the criticism of others and even more when you have to accept that something is not good enough, especially when it comes from your brain!
But let me say more, because it is more complicated than you think.
These are very delicate killer traits because you can easily end up misusing them. The whole point is to find the right balance between two trade-offs.
Trade-off 1: Listening to what people say vs. Do what you think is right.
This is hard because while it is very necessary to get feedback from people you trust it is also very important to filter what you get and put it in the context of what you think. Who do you trust more yourself or your beloved colleagues?
Trade-off 2: Be ready to trash your stuff vs. Persist until you get the best out of it.
This is maybe even harder because excellence often come form avoiding the discouragement that difficulties bring when you are crafting a new design. But sometimes your solution doesn’t work and the sooner you accept it the better.
Oh folks! The more I think about it the more I realize how this delicate balance is at the core of our job. It’s hard and, again, there is nothing like a ready-made formula to use.
There are a lot of open questions.
- How do you find good criticism?
- And what is good criticism by the way?
- How do you incorporate the suggestions you get back into your work? Of course you need to filter them.
- How do you deal with the feeling of failure once you realize your work doesn’t work?
I’d be very happy to hear your experiences.
My own experience
I can only say few things from my own experience. You get the best criticism from people you trust a lot. I have for instance a number of great colleagues and I consider myself very lucky for that. There are three advantages for having such a luxury: (1) when you ask to your trusted colleagues you feel you are in a safe environment; (2) since the environment is safe they tend to give very honest feedback; (3) I can take their criticism very seriously.
Recently I also joined the big big world of blogging and twitter and this is also a fantastic resource. Even if I still have to understand how to get the same level of trust and the same feeling of being home.
As for the difficulty of dumping your masterpiece I cannot tell much, this is really something you have to consider on a case-by-case manner. But there is one single very important skill that can really help: do not identify yourself with your own work. I realize I am getting very psychological and I don’t want to steal the job to anyone, I don’t pretend to give any lesson in this domain. Anyway, I personally noticed that the more detached I am from my work the more I can accept failures. And this is in my humble opinion a great great tool for your mind.
And you? Where do you find good criticism? And how do you turn criticism into a great resource?