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The Real Problem with Bad Reviews



The Real Problem with Bad Reviews

We live in a world obsessed with reviews. Restaurant reviews. Book reviews.  Doctor reviews. We even review each other on dating apps. And we are led to believe that they are a good thing—that they can actually teach us something valuable about a book, a restaurant, or a date.

But that is the analytical view only. Because when we infuse this view with creativity, all kinds of things start to shift. And that shift reminds me of my fifth-grade teacher.

My fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Hermanson, was the worst. A devil in plain clothes. She had us doing work at a ninth-grade level. In fifth grade! Can you believe it?! We often had to stay after class if we didn’t get our classwork done. And our homework was massive. She would not tolerate anything less than a full effort. She taught us vocabulary that most adults around me didn’t know (still don’t know), and we were doing math meant to challenge high school students. I don’t remember much about being 10 years old, but I sure do remember that mean ol’ Ms. Hermanson.

But here is where it gets interesting. The whole time I was in her class, I was kicking and screaming at every lesson. At every opportunity, I fought her at every turn. Imagine if I had written a review of Ms. Hermanson at that time—a review of how much I hated her class. The review would have looked something like this:

Zero Stars. My fifth-grade teacher is a terrible teacher. Ms. Hermanson does not tolerate anything less than 100% learning, and all I want to do is play kickball on the playground. Not do the math. In English, she is teaching us words that I will never use. And she’s mean! If I don’t turn in my homework on time, she gives me a bad grade.  I wish I had another teacher.

I now realize that Ms. Hermanson was one of the finest teachers I have ever had. Even though my class was overcrowded and conditions inside my Los Angeles public school were deteriorating daily, I learned. I learned a lot.

So when we look at this creatively, we see a whole new way of looking at it.  Here are three things that took me years to understand—but they’re true:


#1: You can’t ask students how the teacher is doing.

You just can’t.  And it turns out, this applies to a great deal of other things too. Ms. Hermanson knew what was good for her students, and I didn’t know shit. It’s that simple. As they say, we can’t see the forest for all the trees. But why?

Because sometimes, we have to let go of what we think we know analytically and accept that if we view things creatively that just may be the truth. And sometimes we cannot see it—even though it’s in front of our face. I am sure you can think of many moments in your life where this held true. Perhaps it’s when your parents told you not to take that job—and they turned out to be right—but you ignored them and wound up quitting. Perhaps it’s the advice a friend gave you not to move to that new city—but you disregarded her opinion, and it turned out to be a horrible place to live.


#2: Don’t be so impulsive—or take everything personally.

The Creator Mindset offers some insight by reminding you that the journey is often a long and arduous one. As you learn how to think creatively, you will think of the world as events that just happen. You will not personalize events with the spin that they are happening to you. Think about it. Imagine how liberating that could be. The tree limb that fell onto your car? It’s just happened. It didn’t happen to you. The business deal you lost? It just happened. It didn’t happen specifically to you. There is nothing personal about it. It just is.

That’s why it is so important to avoid always focusing on the analytical details—and, worse, then reflect on those details in some impulsive review. That’s exactly what I did with my fifth-grade teacher. And I was dead wrong about her. I thought I was trapped—when, in fact, I was being set free. Ms. Hermanson gave me a foundation for my platform of spreading creativity to a business that I carry with me today. And these tools would later in life prove essential to my development.

Fight the impulse for instant gratification in some instant review. The road is a long one, and sometimes things are not personal.


#3: Good reviews may not always be so good.

As everyone knows, good reviews of restaurants and movies can be highly subjective. But good medical reviews? The ones you look for online before choosing a doctor? Well, a 2012 study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients who reviewed doctors highly were often not the best cared for or the healthiest. In fact, they were the most likely to be in poor health and die! YIKES! So much for that “good” review, eh?


We are obsessed with the analytics of reviewing everything from movies to hotels, but perhaps we should focus more on creativity instead—and see how things pan out instead of rushing to impulse with a review. The creative view sees things as just happening—not always happening to us. And in that differentiation is the freedom to explore, get it wrong, and truly grow.

Nir Bashan is the founder and CEO of The Creator Mindset LLC, where he teaches business leaders how to harness the power of creativity to improve profitability, increase sales, and make work more meaningful. His clients include AT&T, Microsoft, Ace Hardware, NFL Network, EA Sports, and JetBlue. He received a Clio Award and an Emmy nomination for his creative work on albums, movies, and advertisements, and was one of the youngest professors ever selected to teach graduate courses at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives in Orlando, Florida. Learn more about his new book, The Creator Mindset: 92 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability (McGraw-Hill; August 2020), at Or visit