The Feedback Fairy 🧚♀️
Shouldn't feedback be one of the easiest things we do as designers or developers? Just look at Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. When you get stuck, just phone-a-friend and make a million dollars. Easy right?
If you've ever tried to get real feedback on a project, you know it doesn't work like that. Feedback can be a dark perplexing art. It can feel like you're writing a sentence and you are just missing a single key word. It teases you as it dances on the tip of your tongue. Then the Feedback Fairy 🧚♀️ gives you a completely random shape, color, sound. WTF!? 🤔
It can be so frustrating to receive seemingly irrelevant feedback. So next time you try scoping your request.
Hi Feedback Fairy! Could I get your input? I need help with this sentence. What do you think?
This time, you get a grammar lesson on a WIP paragraph that has absolutely nothing to do with the sentence in question. In fact, you were planning to delete it immediately after the feedback session. 😖
Should we all just give up on feedback?
Absolutely not. As we build things with greater and greater creative and technical complexity, the need for collaboration only grows. And there is something very human about the desire to share.
What we really need, is to develop a better shared understanding of feedback so it no longer feels like a dark art. With that understanding, we'll be better at harnessing feedback as a tool.
Understanding The Feedback Fairy
In order to better understand feedback, it's important to temporarily detach from the project at hand and to think about the person evaluating the project. More specifically, think about that person's brain. Consider the things that influence how they think about your project.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind:
The Feedback Fairy is busy: You might be 💯 honed in on the thing you are building. But how likely is it that someone giving feedback will forget about all the demands in their life and give your thing complete and undivided attention? Not very likely.
The Feedback Fairy thinks fast:
I highly recommend this book called Thinking Fast and Slow
. While you are likely in slow deliberating mode, people giving feedback are often in fast pattern recognition mode. This comes into play so often when you are trying to innovate as a hacker and people immediately compare your thing to what they already know. It's hard to get people to imagine a new world, powered by a new thing.
The Feedback Fairy lacks context: Remember all the thinking it took for you to get to your current level of understanding regarding your shiny new thing? A random person isn't going to have that same level of understanding only given a few sentences of explanation.
The Feedback Fairy has baggage: Something you find critical could be irrelevant to someone evaluating your project. It's also likely that something related to your project that they find extremely important, seems irrelevant to you.
The Feedback Fairy lacks EQ: Quite often, you might be consciously or subconsciously seeking validation. The Feedback Fairy might not be aware of your needs and feedback that seems like a rational improvement might be interpreted as criticism.
The Feedback Fairy avoids confrontation: If you advocate for a solution, people will often agree with your conclusion even if it is wrong.
The Feedback Fairy is Captain Obvious: When you get deep into a project, you often develop tunnel vision. You fixate on certain things and suddenly are blind to ideas that are obvious to the outside world.
The Feedback Fairy is brilliant: Your life experiences likely diverge pretty significantly from someone evaluating your project. Often, their life experiences are the key to making your thing work.
Working with the Feedback Fairy
Now that we better understand the Feedback Fairy, here are a few tips to get more out of your feedback sessions:
1) Be Patient
When you share your project with someone, don't expect immediate meaningful feedback. First reactions and hot takes are valuable, so pay attention and don't disregard quick input. But let the person mull over the problem and solution. Then ask follow up questions.
2) Resist the need for validation
Some validation is healthy so don't beat yourself up if you need it. But realize that you are a capable problem solving human. Believe in yourself. Because the less feedback is about validation, the more valuable it'll be.
3) Be generous with your ideas
So often people are very guarded about their ideas which makes the whole concept of feedback pretty pointless. When you are free with your ideas, it invites the person giving feedback to the table as a collaborator. Not only will they have more context, but they'll also be more mentally invested in the problem and potential solutions.
4) Be open to new ideas
It's ok if you don't agree with feedback or think it is off track. Give the person freedom to deviate from the course you've set. They'll either discover an interesting opportunity to explore, or that path will eventually be disregarded. It's much better to let a bad idea play out than to try and conserve time by shutting it down. Once you start shutting ideas down, people will stop exploring.
5) Think about the feedback
Don't just evaluate the feedback at face value. Try understand where the person is coming from. Sometimes you have to read between the lines to find value in feedback.
6) Show appreciation
If someone is willing to put in time giving you feedback, show some appreciation. A simple "Thanks for the feedback!" goes a long way.
I hope you find some of my thoughts on feedback useful. Ping me on Twitter to continue the discussion. @duilen
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