If I ran the zoo…

“It’s a pretty good zoo,” Said young Gerald McGrew,
“And the fellow who runs it seems proud of it, too.”
“But if I ran the zoo,” Said young Gerald McGrew,
“I’d make a few changes, that’s just what I’d do.”

This Dr. Seuss book is a story about a young boy imagining the kind of zookeeper he would be. He would get rid of all the “old-fashioned” animals like lions and tigers, then he would stock his zoo with such never-before-heard-of creatures as an Elephant-cat, a scraggle-foot Mulligatawny, a Thwerll, and an obsk.

A lot of times criticism is like this. Sure, we have the right to criticize. Criticism is healthy and it helps to identify problem areas allowing us to improve. McGrew thinks the zoo should be improved but he doesn’t provide a workable solution. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen many scraggle-foot Mulligatawnys lately. Taken out of the context of a children’s story, this type of criticism would be useless in the real world (if you need a more concrete example, think about the health care proposals that do nothing to control costs or improve quality. Yeah, the McGrew  example is more fun).

However, there is a difference between useful criticism and useless criticism. Allow me to explain.

Useless criticism can be identified quite easily. It finds a flaw in a system, action or idea and, without providing feedback or any kind of solution, it dwells upon the flaw to call into question the observed item. For example, an audience member at the movies may say “Transformers was a terrible movie. All those explosions made the movie monotonous and boring.” Great, excellent point. But… what should have been done differently?

How about turning that criticism into creative energy? For example, “Transformers was a terrible movie. All those explosions made the movie monotonous and boring. They really should have focused more on the storyline to setup an enthralling sequel and leave the audience with a memorable experience.” Now, instead of being pointless criticism, that simple idea can be turned into a short story or even a full blown movie proposal. It may improve an industry. You borrow some basic plot ideas, add in your own, write it all up as a screenplay and see what happens. Maybe nothing, maybe something crazy… right Good Will Hunting?

So keep this simple point in mind. The next time you have a criticism, be sure to attach advice or a solution to the criticism. Criticism with advice is healthy and often needed. No one can be perfect at all times; we each need this feedback in order to improve which is why your attached advice or solution is so vital.

Otherwise, you’re just Gerald McGrew with a scraggle-foot Mulligatawny.

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