Everyone is creative. This belief runs through everything we do at IDEO, and in 2013, it led my brother David and me to write a book that would help others—even those who don’t think of themselves as “creative types”—to unleash their creative potential. Creative Confidence has inspired thousands of people to adopt a creative mindset and apply it to the diverse real-world challenges they face. In this series, we’ll share some exercises from the book that can help you approach your challenges from a new perspective.
To practice creative confidence on a team, members need to feel free to experiment, even during early efforts when results will be far from perfect. For that experimentation to translate into learning, however, at some point you need feedback in order to identify weaknesses and make adjustments the next time. We all instinctively know that constructive critique is essential. And yet it can be hard to listen to and absorb feedback without letting our egos and defensiveness distract us from what may be a valuable message.
We have found the tool “I like, I wish” immensely useful in introducing constructive critique into the innovation process. This framework can be used in a small group to review concepts or in a large group to receive feedback about a class or workshop experience. Feedback starts with honest praise, in the form of positive sentences that begin with the phrase, “I like...” Suggestions for improvement then begin with “I wish...”
Tool: I Like, I Wish
Participants: Groups of any size
Time: 10 to 30 minutes
Supplies: A means of recording feedback. For example, in a large group we frequently keep an open Word document and type up notes in real time. In a smaller setting, Post-its or index cards will work.
Step 1: Set the tone for a constructive conversation and explain the I like, I wish method. For example, “I am interested in hearing about how this workshop experience has been for you. Please express feedback in the form of I like, I wish. You might say, ‘I like that we have started on time every morning. I wish we had 30 minutes to every afternoon to stretch our legs.’” We have found it helpful to model good feedback by demonstrating “I like, I wish” in action.
Step 2: The participants take turns expressing I like/I wish statements, while the facilitator records their statements. For example, if you are reviewing a work-in-progress for a new personal finance software tool, you might offer support such as “I like that you have incorporated five different ways for customers to view their current financial status.” After describing other pluses, you might then say something like “I wish we could make the website easier for first-time users to navigate” or “I wish we could help people examine their financial situation from the long-term perspective of years, not the short-term perspective of months.”
Make sure people receiving feedback just listen. This is not a time to defend decisions or challenge the critique. Ask everyone to listen and accept it as a well-meaning offer of help. You can ask for clarification and engage in further discussion at a later time.
Step 3: Stop when participants run out of things to say in both the “I like” and “I wish” categories.
You may want to gather just the “I like” comments first, and then ask for the “I wish” statements. In other groups, it may make sense to let the give-and-take of statements flow organically. Feel free to play with the format.
“I like, I wish” signals that what you are stating is your opinion—it’s not an absolute. Instead of pointing fingers, you are offering your view or perspective. The goal is to move the listener away from a defensive posture so that they can more objectively consider alternative ideas and take them to heart, when appropriate. We all naturally tend to become invested in our own ideas, and seek to defend them. But in a creative culture, candid feedback that is sensitively conveyed is a sign that colleagues care enough to speak up. The message can be delivered quite clearly, without resorting to the negative language of “That will never work” or “We tried that before and it failed.”