Thursday, February 20, 2014

The 80/20 of Criticism



Do you know? 80% of the problems come from 20% of causes. I am sure you know.  Over spending, lethargy, casual attitude and the likes lead to several problems in our lives.  80% of the disturbances come from 20% of the people disturbing us.  I am sure you won’t find it hard to list those handful of people very easily.  80% of calories intake come from 20% of what we eat. Is that right?

That 20% is important.  Deal with those things first.  Or separate the vital few from the trivial many as Joseph Juran said.  Let me add. Interestingly, years later, he changed ‘trivial many’ to ‘useful many’ indicating that we should not ignore the 80%. Keep that in mind too.

Can we apply this rule to dealing with critics and criticism?

Here is what I do.  I need critics. I need criticisms. My creations need critics and criticisms.  By this, I mean my writings, my presentations, my speaking sessions, and so on.  My critics come under at least five categories - experts, peers, near and dears, consumers, others.

Experts:  All of us learn from experts. I respect their criticisms.  One aspect I have observed in experts is that they give you feedback, suggestions, and alternatives.  Most of them don’t criticize. The give you feedback. They collaborate. They create learning opportunities.  They don’t offer high level or abstract negative feedback. They ask questions. They try to understand. They don’t direct. They put forward two or three alternatives in front of you and they allow you to think and improve.  Value and take their comments, suggestions or criticisms with a pinch of sugar. Don’t miss that opportunity!

Peers: In this category there are peers but not experts. If you understand and respect their needs and limitations you will devise an approach to deal with their criticism or feedback.  Sometimes, peers don’t comment, suggest or criticize. They observe or become mute spectators.  Unless there is a shared vision or vested interest, why will they spend their precious time?  Take their comments, suggestions or criticisms with a pinch of salt.

Near and Dears:   When you receive inputs from your near and dears never ignore. They care about you!  As they care about you, they may become little aggressive or pushy. They may look like your critics. Listen. Understand. Rationalize, and conclude.  They are your near and dears.

Consumers:  Consumers are the ones who invest their time in consuming what you provide. Their time is money.  Sometime they spend their money to consume your product.  They are your customers. Their opinions matter. Their comments and suggestions are important.  Respond to them without any delay.  You need them. Be collaborative and improve.

Others:   They may be genuine. They may not be. They may be unknown experts.  They may become your peers in future. They may become your consumers too. Or, perhaps they are your unknown consumers. They may criticize for the sake of criticizing. Listen to them and decide the course of action.  If you have to ignore, ignore and move on.

Criticism and feedback – are they different?   It depends on two key things – a) the source and b) the tone. Sometimes a criticism can crush you, make you feel vulnerable, and put you off.   If you are stronger you will bounce back.   How about feedback?  Feedback can be constructive or neutral or destructive.  One may argue that there are and can be constructive criticisms too.  The truth is different. Criticism is criticism. It is about giving it back or demonstrating superiority. It is about politicizing or getting even.  Feedback is based on genuine observation, empathy, candid feeling and willingness to collaborate.

Whether it is criticism or feedback, look at the source and decide what to do!

So, what is '80/20 of Criticism'? 80% criticisms come from 20% of people who criticize.  You can never ignore any of them.  Even if you say that you are ignoring them, you are not.  Let me tell you, at least 50% of them will require consideration. Meanwhile you cannot afford to let them crush you down!  You can introspect and decide on what to do about them.  

Criticisms indicate that you are active.  Lack of feedback indicates that something is wrong - perhaps, you are not seeking feedback or not progressing!

What else? Did you read 'Is Everything OK?'  

Let me know.