The first time I heard the expression ‘feedback is a gift” was from George Campbell, the then Director of the d.school at Stanford. It seemed like a nice and meaningful phrase coming from an expert in design thinking, an innovation approach where users are considered core to a successful outcome. It is only when I started embracing the concept and applying this idea, that I discovered the real power of this concept!
Receiving feedback as a gift to cherish can be hard at times. It makes you feel vulnerable particularly when it is on projects you are passionate about. “Don’t tell me my baby is ugly” is how it feels at first when you get some negative comments on something your pour your heart and soul into for months. And yet, if you just listen and absorb the feedback and find the nuggets in it, you will start to see what a gift this can be.
For instance, years ago I was a speaker at a conference and did an hour presentation that I thought went very well. When I got the attendees surveys results, I was surprised and disappointed to discover that many attendees gave my talk a low rating. Digging deeper, I realized that my mic was not set well and that I talked too fast (which I tend to do when I get passionate about a topic) which made it hard for the attendees to hear. While I was disappointed, I learned to embrace “feedback as a gift” and now always ask the audience if they can hear me well and to let me know if there are issues with my speed
I also learned that you do not have to get feedback from many to start seeing patterns. If five people are confused by your new ideas, a new feature of the app or a page of the website, it is probably enough to know you need to start making changes. Use a “try, learn through feedback and iterate” approach for fast prototyping and you will save your project and organization lots of time and money!
On the other hand, remember that feedback is only information and that you do not have to accept and change everything, just listen deeply for the key elements that can have a meaningful impact.
Feedback is a two way gift. When you give feedback you may see change in those who receive it (if they are open to it). When you receive feedback, you are given the opportunity to make necessary changes and make things better the next time.
I started to apply this approach broadly in my life as a way to create the changes I wanted to see. On the giving feedback side, I started to provide more constructive feedback whether it is about an app that does not work, an issue with my children’s school or a table that is wobbly in a restaurant. I discovered in this process that some organizations (or people) are not interested in feedback and make it very hard, even impossible to provide any. For example, I was excited to pre-order a ride with Uber when I needed to leave my house at 5am. But while I got a confirmation via email, the future trip did not show up on my app and no car ever came. You would think it is a big problem for Uber, but I found out there is no way to report the problem with the app (no customer service to contact and a help section that only has answers to predetermined questions!). Talking to several Uber drivers they mentioned they heard about this issue too but they cannot report either. Not surprisingly this is about an organization that has been struggling with their values and management approach. On the receiving end, I always build some feedback mechanisms in any training or sessions I facilitate. Often I use a guided discussion format using the POINt tool (where we discuss Pluses, Opportunities, Issues and New Thinking) so attendees can talk openly about what works and does not work as well as ways to overcome the issues so improvement can start immediately.
Now it is your turn to embrace this concept send us your feedback on our new website. Email us anytime.
Thank you for your gift of feedback!