Let’s talk about feedback, shall we? Hold up. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s talk about survival, shall we? Hands up, everyone that wants to survive. Ok, great. Now hands up for everyone that wants to stay gainfully employed? Oh, it’s mostly the same people. Ok. Good. If you want to stay employed and use all that money you’re going to be paid, you’ll need to stay on top of your game. One of the big hurdles is admitting you can do better and finding out how.
How do you confidently say “Yeah, all that stuff, over there? Don’t know it” ? As long as you approach it from the standpoint that you’re trying to improve, you’re good. We can comfortably laugh at the jokers that can’t admit it. Jokers, the lot of them.
Now lets get back to feedback, shall we? How do you solicit valuable feedback? I think a lot of people want to be nice and others can’t be bothered to take the time. In my retail days I remember a chat that was making the rounds, focusing on the ‘nice’ customer that didn’t complain when something went wrong. “Do we like the ‘nice’ customer? No! Of course not! How do we get better if they don’t tell us the problem?” Of course, at the time I thought it was stupid, but it has made more sense in recent years. You don’t want people to just walk away and not help you improve. Mediocrity doesn’t do anyone any good. But people are nice! They don’t want to hurt your feelings and who can blame them. You wouldn’t want to rain on someone else’s parade, right? It’s not about us.
I know, I know. I just said we need to improve to survive. There are very few jobs that I can think of where we ‘the people’ are the product. Models, super or otherwise, might be the one example I can think of and everyone else, makes something. By asking about the product we remove, to some degree, our feelings. They might not even be on the radar and that’s great because it let’s people think critically about the product.
A great example from Made to Stick; ask someone to name 10 white things. It might take them a minute. Then ask them to name 10 white things in their kitchen and Boom! They fly through that list. If you provide restrictions on people is lets them free up energy they would waste on searching the infinite. Look at your product, how it’s accessed, how it’s used, how it’s communicated and ask for specific information.
Let’s not forget about time. Who can be bothered to take the time to provide feedback. By the time you ask about feedback, the show is over. They got what they wanted. So you need to make the feedback as easy as possible to provide. Once you’ve got your own set of constraints for the focus of the feedback, you can drill down a bit more, until you get some real nuggets. Keep asking about the product, and you’re going to get some good stuff.
Something else to consider is the WIIFM for the person fillinging it out. You’re taking up even more of their time, you need to give them a reason. Highlight that the feedback they provide helps shape the program. Everyone likes to get a bit of credit every now and then. I usually preface it with a statement letting them know that we can’t implement all feedback provided but we review it all and where we see trends and have the ability to make changes, things can be implemented.
Don’t dismiss or argue with feedback providers. Just don’t. I’ve seen people get defensive about why something was done one way or the other. It shuts down the flow of ideas and then no one else will want to contribute. If you’re going to argue, don’t bother asking for feedback. Just put your head back in the sand.
What tools can you use? I’m not sure there is a fixed tool or set of tools that you should use. There are surveys, polls, electronic or paper based, but I find a conversation works well.
Make note of how well you build your questions. Are the answers going to provide you with valuable information? “Was the trainer professional,” is an ok question but if there are several trainers, the question becomes useless. Value is found in the details.
Let’s summarize. Make feedback easy to provide in a very quick way. Ask specific questions about the product and how the user interacts with it. Its not about you, it’s about your product. Get over yourself. (Even though you’re great.)
Update: March 14
This is a job aid I’ve put together to help keep the various elements of objectives in mind. All of the content that you see (the words on the image) are credited to Robert Mager. I just tried to put them together in a visually appealing format. Hope you like it.