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How to give the kind of feedback that leads to killer ideas

In the pursuit of impactful, memorable ideas we put loads of time into perfecting a creative brief with our partners. And rightly so, the brief is the meaning that we build our idea upon. But weirdly, the debrief never gets the same love.

This important stage in the birth of a great idea often gets rushed, so we fall back on feedback norms - taking everyone’s initial reactions and opinions and distilling them into bullet points. But if we looked at the debrief solely as an opportunity to add value to the idea, the process would look so different. Let’s look at how.

Get curious about the work

As the commissioner of the work, sometimes you can see your role sitting outside the creative process. But you need to know you’re on the team. Your decisions, your confidence, your stewardship, your bravery - these are all key to shaping great work.

Beautiful creative work doesn’t live without the writers or art directors or YOU. So the first step (long before the debrief) is to get involved in the work. The team have spent hours developing these ideas - so when they share them, ask lots of questions. Find out how they landed where they did, how the idea works, why they love it. Discover its potential, its limits. Understand what their references and inspirations are.

When you drink more wine, you start to know and love the unique differences between each bottle. And so it is with creativity.

Start with the positives

When your team shares ideas with you, they’re showing you more than just creativity. Baked into every response is an incredible amount of goodwill, of time spent exploring your brand and lovingly examining it until it reveals its unique magic.

There’s simply no other way to be creative than from a positive place (ever tried to brainstorm when you're grumpy?). Reflect that optimism back at your team and you will pour accelerant on whatever is good about the work. But if you start with something you don’t like, you will do the opposite.

Build confidence through positive reinforcement, then you can hold the ideas to the fire.

If there are elements of the idea that you aren’t sure about – go back to a place of curiosity. Start by finding out why they landed where they did and we’re sure that conversation will lead you all to an understanding of what works (and doesn't work) and why.

Build it up

Think of all the ways you could build on this idea. Can you bring authentic stories from your business or organisation that demonstrate its truth? How might it come to life outside the confines of the brief? Are there more team members or insights you could bring on board to add conviction to the idea (e.g.: product development).

This process will either see the idea grow and flourish into something wonderful or you'll get closer to its limitations - both of which will help create something great in the long run.

Ask: who is it for?

When you’re shaping creative work, it's impossible not to bring your own likes and dislikes to it. Every creative person does it. But you add exponential value when you step aside for a moment, acknowledge your true audience and walk in their shoes.

What will delight them? What will stop them in their tracks? What do they need to feel seen? Will this get their attention? What is the one thing you want them to be left with? When you review work objectively, a whole world of possibilities will open up.

Go back to the brief

Receiving creative work can and should be overwhelming, especially if you’re seeing multiple ideas, and you’re getting deeply involved in the work. So do what the creatives do, and come back to the insights in the brief over and over to remind you of the course you set out on.

The brief is a rudder for your valuable conversations.

Don't feel like you need to come up with the answers

Your creative team are experts at taking a well put challenge and extrapolating out ten solutions. It’s the balancing act they perform all day, walking between the question and all the possibilities it provokes. So when you provide a solution first, you cut off all those beautiful possibilities.

Let them know what challenges you or what questions you think the work might not answer yet and let the creatives go away and find the solution.

Save your efforts for well-put challenges to get the best out of your team.

Build Trust

It’s hard to click your fingers and be 100% trusting, but it helps to know how deeply immersed your creative partners are in your project. More than any other discipline, your success is their success.

Having faith in your creative team is the most powerful thing you can do to add value to the work.

If you’re engaging in the work from a point of curiosity, helping build it up, ensuring all decisions are right for the intended audience, you’ll start to feel the trust build. Give your team the debrief, and the platform to do what they do best, for you.

A debrief is only as good as the questions we ask and the trust we have in each other to deliver on them. Make your debrief an interactive process that captures the most passionate thinking from everyone in the team and you are on your way to creating breathtaking work with lasting impact.


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