What to do with feedback?

photo by Shadowalker

Today on the Freakonomics blog, Stephen J. Dubner writes a very interesting post titled:  “The Downside of Feedback“. As somebody who is very interested in feedback, I was immediately drawn to it. What? Is there a downside for feedback?

But when I started reading it, I realized, Dubner was not dealing with the kind of feedback I was thinking about. His post was inspired by an article in The Washington Post written by Hank Stuever dealing with the effects fans have on movie production, in this case the new Star-Trek movie. Here is the main idea:

Has our quibbling worked? Yes, if you believe in the collective force of fans and the “wiki” social ideal — that group input only improves the result, guiding by peer pressure if nothing else. No, if you think filmmakers are too beholden to fans. Quibbling does not produce a Heath Ledger-style Joker; that is the result of an actor and a writer and a director coming unhinged from the original material. Quibbling produces a Watchmen movie, which tenderly reproduced the 1988 graphic novel panel-for-panel and still failed — pleasing fans, perhaps, but excluding newcomers.

And Dunber adds:

It’s an interesting and timeless point that Stuever raises. Creators who wish to honor the fans’ concerns may wring out the originality that can make art compelling; and creators who ignore the fans’ concerns risk alienating them

This made me think about feedback in general:

1. We should never ignore feedback. We should always try to get some. Feedback is just a mirror. You look in the mirror almost every day. Why? Because it is the best way to know how you and what your state is. And because you see things in the mirror that you would never be able to see otherwise. In a business, professional or even a personal setting, these mirrors don’t always exist. This is what feedback is for.

 2. If we think about costumer feedback we need to think about what our customers want and listen to them. This is a given. But we need not forget two things. One:  the costumers don’t always know what they want. As Malcolm Gladwell tries to claim in his famous Sgpagethi Sauce talk at TED, we sometime need to create the market for costumers, one that they did not even think about asking for. Second: our non- customers are just, or maybe as important as our existing customers. A short quote from a manifesto called: “Uncovering Business Breakthroughs: Are you Tuned In or Tuned Out?“:

    Existing customers represent a small percentage of the market opportunity for most businesses, so basing a product development strategy solely on what your existing customers want is flawed. Worse, existing customers have different market problems than noncustomers (buyers who don’t yet do business with you), and only frame their view of your future based on incremental improvements to their past experiences.

3. In business feedback, as in personal feedback, it is ultimately up to you to decide what you change and what you don’t change. Sometime, the feedback just isn’t suitable for you. Some time, the feedback does not understand your message. And sometime, the givers of the feedback just don’t know what they are talking about. But all of this does not mean that you do not have to listen, assess and re-examine your assumptions. It is up to you to use your judgment. Don’t forget that feedback is a tool.

So, how have you used feedback that you have been getting lately?


One Response to “What to do with feedback?”

  1. Consistent choices « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] 3. The third point I think this story illustrated is about how companies can redefine the market.  I think it is amazing that Nintendo succeeded in changing the customers for the console industry by creating a product that speaks to non traditional customers of the console industry.   Our non-customers are just, or maybe as important as our existing customers. […]

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