If you were to look up in a dictionary what constructive criticism means, you would probably read something closely related to “advice which is meant to be helpful and solution focused to improve the work that needs to be done or revised.”
Constructive criticism tends to be more of a discussion-based conversation, rather than an authoritative one where a person simply states you are wrong. The intention for the advisor is to point out a deficiency seen or heard within one’s work or thought process and illustrate positive examples that can be later replicated or emulated.
I remember a time when constructive criticism was the new buzz word in the business world. It was first introduced to me as an art form, a craft to be studied and mastered, but the art form seems to be lost. Both business and academia view constructive criticism as important. However I know from colleagues, friends and personal experience that the personal touch of what makes constructive criticism a great idea and beautiful skill is a fleeting memory.
There are many reasons for this which include lack of time, resources, organization, skills set, company policies and regulations. Depending on your level of experience in giving and receiving constructive criticism, I am sure you can appreciate that even in the few examples given, many hurdles can inhibit this beautiful art called constructive criticism.
Constructive criticism is best when it is tailored to the individual. Tailoring should be done by the advisor, who looks at the qualities and skill sets that individual brings to the table in order to guide them with use of their own arsenal of skills to improve and complete what is being asked.
This is what I refer to as the “fine art” part of constructive criticism.
Every person is unique and different in how they understand and tackle various problems they face. This is an important statement to conceptualize beyond the obvious; if every person is different and unique, then their passions and drives are as well. I can speak from experience that when I tackle a project that is driven from something I am interested in and care about, the quality of work shows.
Individuality seems to be a lost cause in both business and academic worlds. While in its purest form unique differences found in the world are appreciated when it comes down to dollars, cents or grades, conformity tends to win: thankfully this is not always true.
If the advisor truly wants to help a person grow and mature (a major goal of constructive criticism) then an understanding of how they can personally contribute to what is needed must take place. Showing the advisee that the tools they already possess can be used to help acquire more tools, establishing a larger skill set that will serve to help them in their advancement and understanding in future challenges is important.
Understanding of one’s self can greatly improve performance in a wide variety of fields. This is not to say that having an understanding of our internal processes will make things less difficult to undertake, but if constructive criticism is done beautifully, then the person receiving the criticism can better apply themselves to the task at hand.