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Trust the brain
Lessons from Pixar on how to give effective and actionable feedback
When Pixar creatives are making a film, they gather every few months for an important meeting called Braintrust. Braintrust is made up of people who have deep knowledge of storytelling and have been through the process of producing a film. Together, they review the existing story and design content for the film and provide candid feedback on what could be improved.
Ah, feedback. 😱 When was the last time you were bothered by the way feedback was given to you? For me, that was yesterday.
Feedback is such a sensitive animal. I already wrote about it earlier this year, but I do keep thinking about it. A lot. Getting candid criticism on your work is rarely fun, no matter how thick your skin is. So I’m always on the lookout for examples of teams that manage to go through the process and still like each other at the end.
I’m currently reading Creativity Inc. by Pixar’s creator Ed Catmull—an inspiring book that I strongly recommend, by the way!—and their concept of Braintrust meetings caught my attention. What is so special about it? At least three things:
Constructive notes. Everyone in the room provides specific, actionable feedback. Vague comments are not allowed as they don’t help anyone move forward.
No top-down implementation. Even if Pixar executives are in the room, they don’t tell others what to do. Ultimately, it’s up to the film director and team to figure out the best solutions to the problems raised.
Mutual agreement on the process. All Braintrust participants are fully aware of the rules of the game and play along willingly. Most importantly, they trust that this process will make their films better.
So could a similar framework be applied to projects in the data design field?
Just imagine everyone—the client, the designers, the management—agreeing on a similar process at the beginning of a project, and then sticking to it. How amazing would that be? It would certainly save everyone at least some moments of frustration.
I plan to communicate more about the feedback process for the upcoming Parabole's projects at their start. I’m especially curious to see how we can reduce top-down comments and suggestions.
Will let you know how it goes!
Talk next week,
Data storytelling bootcamp: new cohort
Want to learn how to turn data insights into actionable stories? Join the next cohort of my data storytelling course. It will be an insightful, fun, and interactive experience—rated at 4.8/5 ⭐️. Here’s what Kamila, one of the previous cohort participants, had to say about it:
The course was very insightful: Evelina was a great teacher, and adapted well to the students. The learning materials were of a great quality, and the presentation brought great examples. I recommend it to anyone who wants to discover and practice data storytelling.
A third of the spots are already taken so don’t wait to subscribe! Use the code THEPLOT10 for 10% off and secure your seat now.