Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Critique Questions

Critique Questions- by Mike Fox

This Is For You If …
… You a designer or maybe you teach design. (Architect? Landscaper Architect? Interior Designer? Graphic Designer?)

… You are a parent wanting to give your child an effective evaluation for that “wonderful invention” they are making out of that box of junk you have in the basement.

… You are a teacher helping a student with a project.

When an individual is ready for a critique of a project, process or a product, use affirmative judgment to evaluate the idea or the work. In this case Critique Questions is a handy evaluation tool.

A Little History
Three decades ago I was an occasional guest lecturer at the Landscape Architecture School at the University of Minnesota. At that time I was landscape architect planning large-scale parks. The school used several of my yet-to-be-developed parks as a “training ground”. On these visits to the design studios, I noticed that the instructors were using one-on-one critiquing techniques that seemed to be less than effective. The critiques (or “desk crits” as they were called) were taken by the students as attacks on their personhood. The critiques did little to change the students’ behavior – as in improving their design skills.

In response to this, I created Critique Questions as an affirmative judgment tool just for this situation. I fashioned it along the lines of the classic PPCo (developed by Roger Firestien, Diane Foucar-Szocki, and Bill Sheppard in the early 1980’s). Over the decades I have found Critique Questions useful when evaluating a project during any stage of development. It helps the evaluator understand what the individual is excited about, where he plans to go with the next stages of development, what other options he is considering, and those things that may evolve differently or be eliminated entirely.

How to Use the Tool
Ask the questions in order. Listen to the responses before giving information. Fashion your concerns into classic problem statement format. In the broad sense, the outcome should provoke the individual’s thinking. Separate the person from the behavior: change the behavior. The person is probably OK.

I have presented the tool below as a form. Take it with you.

Critique Questions

Below are four questions (to be asked in order) to help the student learn from the experience. These four questions open a dialog to affirmatively and safely discuss advantages and limitations of an individual’s performance. Used as a standard format for evaluation of a project, Critique Questions help to build trust and openness, as they serve to separate one’s behavior from one’s being. The assumption is that the leader wants to change the individual’s behavior for the sake of growth and improvement. The responses to the questions will give insight into the individual’s thinking and skill set.

Ask the following questions in order.

1. What do you like about what you did?
Affirmation of the current situation

2. What would you like to see more of?
Gaining understanding future directions

3. If you could do this over again, what might you do differently? Opening the door to other possibilities: more of…less of…different

4. What help do you need from me?
Ask this last question ONLY if you really mean it. If you don’t have the time or inclination, don’t bring this one up.

If you see an area that clearly needs attention and feel impelled to bring it to the individual’s attention, state the concern in the form of a problem statement, beginning with the invitational stem “In what ways might...?” or “How might ...?” These invitational stems open up the realm of possibilities. Do not offer the answer. Discovery and dialog are in order.

“About the only time it may be necessary to provide direct feedback is when some else is standing on your foot and doesn’t really know it.”
— From: Negative Criticism and What You Can Do About It by Sidney B. Simon

Developed by JM Fox, International Center for Studies in Creativity, 1988/revised 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Connecting the Dots by Dr. Jo Yudess

Since I started on the journey of creativity “back in the old days,” I’ve been thinking about novel and useful for more than thirty years. At the time I graduated from the Master’s program, the degree was an MS in Creative Studies and ____ (whatever your other work or passion was.) My degree was in Creative Studies and Personnel Administration. People often wondered how the two connected. I could hammer them for hours about the need for new ideas, good interpersonal skills, a facilitative approach, tolerance for error and ambiguity, etc.; but it was when I could help them solve problems in the workplace they began to take notice.

My next foray into education recently resulted in an Ed. D. in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher College in Rochester and a dissertation entitled, “Strategies, efficacies and synergies of teaching creativity and leadership together: A grounded theory.” Again I was questioned about the connections, but for me, and I expect others who study these areas, it was more like a blinding flash of the obvious. In the beginning I was warned that creativity was not a serious subject and that I would have to treat it as something that had not been proven. I explained that I “drank the Kool-Aid” over thirty years ago and I could still taste it. When the dissertation was done, with connections to masses of excellent references on creativity, they took it very seriously.

As I think about our programs and the studies I’ve done, it occurs to me that those connections are almost a definition of what we think about creativity. Everything connects. We even teach “forced connctions” between seemingly unrelated items as a way of stimulating new and different ideas. Students from many fields find that studying creativity helps them relate to their job or major subject better. Some students want to use the degree to get a job in creativity the way you might use a degree in engineering to get an engineering position. I’ve had jobs in secondary education, higher education, consulting, editing, not-for-profit, human services, retail, manufacturing mangement, production, and human resources. They were all jobs in creativity. It’s about thinking. It’s about connecting. What do you do with what you have? How do you inspire others to do the necessary work? How do you facilitate problem solving so that everyone involved feels energized, committed, and proprietary about the solutions? How do you work with people, places, materials, circumstances, time frames, issues, and processes for a successful product or outcome? It’s all in the connections.