The Feedback Tool
I'm gonna crack onto a super, super useful tool: the feedback tool. This is the tool I actually developed when I was doing, huh, it's funny. I was doing a lean product development conference. I was talking about how to innovate within the lean structure. The lean is an interesting thing. I mentioned it earlier. It came from originally from Toyota, and it was a manufacturing mindset. I'd say that even more than a tool. And it's all about hearing from everybody, having input from everyone and continuously improving. It's about a load of other things too, but so, it's interesting I had a bunch of lean people, but we were going to NASA. And I also work at NASA occasionally in trying to help the scientists come up with more radical proposals, which is an interesting one. I find the most resistant people to adventurous thinking mindset are physicists. Physicists struggle, but that's okay, they're also brilliant. And when they get it, they're great. Engineers are some of the best people. So t...
hat's interesting. So the feedback tool was something where I was trying to say to them, "It's really important to get two types of feedback." It's really important to have negative feedback. Because as a polite society, and again with our amygdala, our fear of rejection wired literally into our brain, when do we feel like we can actually tell someone we don't like that idea, or we don't like that development? We really think that's gonna bomb. When can we do it without being that person that's not doing, and yes? Like you never want to discourage someone, but actually negative feedback is super important because it can be much more useful than someone going, "Yeah, that's great. Oh, that's nice. Yeah, I really like it." I mean that doesn't advance the game. But if you have a strong negative reaction to something, it's important that the person that's spending their time on that understands. You know, that thing when you're too close to the wood for the trees thing? Like a lot of this is personal preference. And we'll look at that with the sideways tool. It's really, really important to come up with a structure where you can get the feedback people are thinking, but they don't feel they can give you. Because that could massively fundamentally change the direction of something, and they're just being polite. I ask you, do you want people to be polite, or do you wanna actually hear what they're thinking? So what we need to do is deconstruct that concept so that they don't feel like they're being mean, and so you don't feel like they're being like a little bitch basically, you know? You need to take that thing out, and make it a part of business. So in a lot of the things, a lot of the workshops that I run, I make it so that if we go around a table, and ask for feedback, that's verbal feedback, that we just take it in turns. So, one person has to say, "I think it's great and," and add something to it, and one person has to say, "I'm not crazy about it because," and if they haven't thought of something that they think could be improved and they didn't particularly like, they have to actually come up with it. That takes the whole personal thing out. And also is really, really useful when you have people swap ideas. Yes.
So, is negative feedback, is that akin to constructive criticism?
Constructive criticism. Thanks Sherry.
It is. So yeah, it's not, I mean I use the quote, so it does look like negative feedback, yes, but from friends is that whole balancing act, right? So, we're looking for constructive criticism. And when I used to judge inventions on this show in Australia, I was known as the one, I had, I am an inventor, and we were dealing with inventors, and most of the other judges were people in industry or like sort of shark tanky people who were investors, whatever, but I'd done, it, right? And so I was known for giving constructive criticism. I'd say, "You know, I feel like that actually won't work in that market because of this. Maybe you could do it for this." But I wouldn't spend more, you know like, and people who thought, people who weren't inventors found that pretty confronting. But always after the show, the inventors themselves would come to me and say, "Thank you so much. That is the most important advice I've ever had." No one ever tells you when they don't think it will work. They don't. Now, I come from Australia, which is the land of tall poppy syndrome, and that means people don't want you necessarily to succeed and do something different to them. So it's a fine line. And that's why I believe it needs to be structured. You wanna hear their hesitations and doubts, but they don't wanna shut you down. So if we make sure it is not personal, and it's really, really productive to hear what people doubt, then it's really important to get that out. That's the first part. But the second part of the feedback tool is the anonymous feedback. So, what the feedback tool is, is if you have groups of people; now you can do this in your team; you can do this with your friends; you can do it with a random group of people in a room at a conference. It always works. At its essence is that you're about to get anonymous feedback, often from people who are not invested in whatever it is you're trying to solve. Let's assume you have a problem. Maybe you just have a statement. So, what happens is you, at a group of up to say up to ten people, stand up, and in a really succinct way you put your problem to them. Nobody can ask you questions. Nobody can ask for clarifications. And you gotta try and keep it short, 'cause like if there's a lot of people, each person gets to do this, right? So, everybody is gonna get around this table. You state it. You sit back down. No one talks. And they write their immediate reaction down on a post-it. Now this came, actually originally from when I was judging this invention show, and our producer had said to us, our director had said to us, "When you read the three briefs that are really comprehensive on these inventions, what I want you to do is write down your first reaction. Because your first reaction before you start understanding this thing is gonna be what the audience will immediately think, and if we don't answer that, then we're missing our audience." And so what you get when people don't discuss it, they don't clarify, they just write their first reaction, is feedback you wouldn't normally get. Firstly, they might write, "I do not understand what you just said." That means you have to clarify your intent. You have to actually get your words right. You have to work out a way to frame this problem so that people who are not invested in it understand it. Well that's great. That's clarity. You just got that feedback. They might go, "Oh, that doesn't even seem like a problem to me (mumbles)." And then you go, "How interesting. This seems like such an issue to me, and it doesn't seem like a problem to someone else? So what does that mean? What am I missing? Maybe there's something obvious that I've like focused on, and I've missed something really sitting right here." They may write you, like sometimes I do, they might glue a whole lot of post-its together and write like a whole, "Oh my God, that's so interesting. I was thinking (mumbles)." Right? Whatever they can write in a minute. You end up with this little book of the most interesting insight around your issue. It's stuff you would not normally get, and the coolest thing is as long as you roll with post-its wherever you go, you can run this feedback thing in any situation. 'Cause people actually love, if people aren't gonna be judged, and that's the other key part about this feedback, the person that's giving you the feedback is anonymous. They never get judged on what they write. You're not supposed to try and work out who it was 'cause it doesn't matter. You are not allowed to go back to them afterwards, and ask for clarification. If you can't read their handwriting, you lose. The whole key of it is you respect everybody's privacy. And you really appreciate the fact that you have got those unfettered totally honest feedback on a number of levels, from clarity and language, down to the relevance right through to possible solutions you may not have thought of. So it's an incredible thing. Now, a massive key, obviously, shouldn't even have to say it, but every time I run this, I do have to say it multiple times is this: You can't read your answers when the next person is stating their issue. So the other interesting part of the feedback tool is the respect, the mutual respect that's around a table. Because what you do once you have this wad of like fascinating insight that you can't wait to read is you have to put that thing away, and it's gonna be at least half an hour realistically before you can read those comments. Now that's also great. 'Cause that means you're less likely to try and identify who wrote it. You gotta be in the moment for the next person's issue. Right, so it's quite give. And it's not normal for us. Normally we're very me focused. So, we're gonna grab our answers and run with it. And there's always one that tries to read them under the table. But it's actually quite a beautiful exercise if you don't. Right, if you actually discipline yourself to sit with your little color booklet, and let it be. Hundred percent commit to everybody else's input, and then at the end you see everybody with their little color books saying, "Oh, this is amazing." And there's always something in there that you never would have thought of. So that is the feedback tool. Super, super useful. Highly recommend it, and all you need to do is roll with a bug lump of post-its wherever you go. Key.