Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Feedback

Aug 5, 2023
When people give you notes on something, when they tell you what’s wrong, they’re usually right. When they tell you how to how to fix it, they’re usually wrong. — Bill Hader

A nuanced way to look at feedback. This is Hader’s experience with scriptwriting, but the lesson is generic. It doesn’t always take an expert to spot when something is off, but it usually takes an expert to fix it.  I think about this as descriptive (what’s wrong) vs. prescriptive (how to fix it)

It’s a corollary to the “90% of Everything is Crap” rule. It’s easier to identify the 90% of solutions that are crap than the 10% of solutions that aren’t.

An important lesson for startups and products. Listen intensely to customers for pain points, but it’s on you to solve the problem. Don’t manage others by laying out exact prescriptive solutions, but use descriptive problems and goals.