Loop the loop (4/2019)
Feedback is information that can be used to adjust our future action. We “feed” our results from one set of choices “back” into our model of ourselves/the world that we then use to make our next choice. It’s fundamentally how we learn anything even minimally complex. Being open to updating our views based on data/evidence/empirical outcomes is critical to improving performance.
WE NEED MORE FEEDBACK!
Virtually every bright mind I follow on Twitter extols the virtues of “tight feedback loops” to refine their thinking, writing, or process and some even go so far as to say: “this is what I’m asking for from you, this is what I want to hear your thoughts about.” That’s great. It’s courageous, direct, and displays a deep understanding of just how valuable the requester believes his network’s opinions (read: data) are. The problem is: often we forget about the feedback provider’s experience.
It can be very anxiety-provoking to ask for candid feedback, making oneself vulnerable to harsh (or worse, well-grounded) criticism, acknowledging one’s imperfections and need to improve. And yet, it can be an even more uncomfortable process for the feedback giver! Even armed with valuable data from observation and direct experience of the requester, they may not close the feedback loop because of the uncertainty with which their feedback may be received. I’ve previously talked about this as the interpersonal transaction cost or spending relationship capital with asymmetric returns. But I’ll put it more bluntly: it’s friction that stops most feedback. And per Ben Thompson, the internet was made to reduce frictions. To close the feedback loop, to get the givers comfortable, you’ve now got the semi-anonymity of Hiark.
Feedback has three primary problems: 1) as discussed, the giver may not give (or may give a falsely rosy picture of) the data due to fear of repercussions if the feedback is taken poorly; 2) the data provided (if given at all) may be of low quality — which is addressed in Hiark by only allowing people you’ve explicitly opted-in to provide you feedback on topics that you’ve explicitly asked about. It’s a garbage-in, garbage-out problem that can never be 100% solved, just minimized. 3) feedback can be given at the wrong time (or in the wrong way). The standard “Push” model of unsolicited advice or feedback at mandatory 360-reviews at work are foisted on people and grossly stunt the tremendously beneficial effects quality feedback provided in the right way can deliver. We need “Pull” feedback (dovetailing with #2) so only feedback we want to know about, when we want to know about it. We may not be ready to hear about our rudeness at meetings, but want to know about our perceived warmth and generosity at parties.
We improve our models of ourselves by updating the data that they are based on, making new choices, and then using that data to update again (ad infinitum). Life is an iterated game that we only improve at if we pay attention to the results of our previous choices. We need to constantly be cycling back, updating, experimenting and re-updating. Looping our internal loops with the feedback from our friends and colleagues. There is no faster way to improve at a skill or in one’s general choices than rapid, candid, targeted feedback. So try Hiark out. And if you like our mission and what we’re trying to build, let us know or come work with us.