Holly Thorsen is the Associate Director of Professional Education at Cooper. A veteran of the improv stage, Holly specializes in helping individuals and teams build creative confidence through interactive training programs and leadership coaching to create lasting change.

This is the last of a five-part series where Holly shares her knowledge of design education, educational philosophy, and the importance of shifting company culture to one of creative leadership and feedback.


Feedback is an essential element of a productive work environment. Simply put, it is difficult to improve personal performance, address conflict, or strengthen relationships without a system of feedback in place. 

We often see organizations that believe simply giving feedback automatically generates the positive feedback culture they desire. Unfortunately, the process of putting this culture in place isn’t always a simple one. Building a successful feedback culture requires time, dedication, and lasting commitment.

We’ve identified three strategies any organization can start practicing to build organizational creative capacity.

1. Change the perception of feedback. Frequently, feedback is viewed as a necessary evil, an unpleasant experience you must suffer through. However, we can all learn and grow in critical ways from feedback. It’s how we do great work and become better humans. It’s how we learn to work better together. Feedback is like “magic juice” in so many ways. Changing the perception of feedback from a stocking of coal to the gift of growth and learning is essential for shifting your feedback culture.

2. Start by receiving feedback. I share this in my Mastering the Art of Feedback course. It is absolutely critical to model receiving feedback well. You have to believe that receiving feedback is exciting and valuable. Managers, in particular, often start by giving feedback, but this will not result in anyone feeling more receptive to feedback. When you are a manager, people beneath you often stop giving you the kind of information you need to make decisions well, because they are afraid of sharing something negative. Feedback, in turn, can open the channels of communication that have been stifled by hierarchy. To accomplish this, ask your direct reports for feedback. Keep doing it until they actually believe you are receptive to it.

3. Change your behavior based on the feedback. While this one seems obvious, it’s funny how often the feedback process stops as soon as it is received. As you are building a culture in which your direct reports feel comfortable sharing more honestly, ensure that you are genuinely listening to them by taking action to address their concerns. Demonstrating - and communicating - how you put their feedback to use not only completes the circle of giving and receiving, but also models the enthusiasm you hope to see from your team and offers the important reassurance to feedback-givers that it’s worth taking the risk of offering a point of view.. Once your team has started to give feedback more regularly and recognizes the time and value you’re placing on the process, you can request to reciprocate this gift.

Building a culture of genuine feedback is not a quick and easy fix but involves honesty, self-analysis, and building trusting relationships. If you can lead by example, receive feedback well, and truly apply the feedback you receive, you will be well on your way to shifting your company culture. 


Interested in bringing training on Mastering the Art of Feedback to your team? Learn more about our design and education philosophies at Cooper Professional Education, and about our curriculum and class schedules at www.cooper.com/training.