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“There is No Failure. Only Feedback.”


Andy Sephton
Andy Sephton

The title of this article is a quote from a best-selling American author called Robert Allen and in just six words he sums up why we never truly fail as long as we are willing to learn from our mistakes. While this is a great concept, it is not always as easy as it seems. Getting honest feedback can be a confronting and emotional experience. So how do we make sure that feedback helps us plan for future success rather than dwell on past failure?

While researching this topic I came across The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler. This a great little book to keep on hand if you ever need to come up with a new way to look at the decision-making process and it provided me with just such a tool for this article: The Feedback Model.

Feedback is a very sensitive point for many people and giving honest feedback can be challenging for both the person delivering it and for the person receiving it. Criticism can be taken the wrong way; compliments can be used as a shield to hide behind and how we ask for feedback can have a serious impact on how useful it can be.

So, if you want honest feedback, we need to start with how we ask for it. We need to ask people questions that make them think, so instead of asking yes or no questions, ask people to rate things on a scale. Then ask them why they scored it the way they did. Ask them what they enjoyed and then ask them what you could have done to make it even better. Ask them what they didn't like and then ask them why they didn't like it. Ask as many questions as you can and try and come at it from as many angles as you can. Collecting feedback is about making the most of the people who are willing to give it to you. The raw data is what you need for something like the Feedback Model to work. As with most things in business the end result relies on the raw materials we put in to start with.

So, let's assume the feedback collection process has gone well. We have honest feedback and we now need to take action on it. This is where the model comes in as it is now time to put each piece of feedback into one of four categories:

Compliment - "I thought it was good and it can stay as it is in the future!"

Everyone loves a compliment, but the key here is not to become complacent. Make sure you take this type of feedback as a sign to keep the focus on what you are doing well and keep doing it in the future. If we only look at what we can improve we can forget to keep doing what we have already perfected.

Advice - "I thought it was good, but it still needs to change!"

When feedback falls into this area you are at least on the right track. People feel what you are providing is good but want to help you make it great. This, in my opinion, is one of the most valuable types of feedback as it means people like what you are doing are invested enough in your success to try and help you do better.

Suggestion - "I thought it was bad, but I can live with it!"

This is another powerful category of feedback. It tells us what people are willing to live with, but it also highlights areas that can be improved if we want to take the suggestions on board. We don't have to address these issues but listening to suggestions and acting accordingly can be the difference between a good customer experience and a great one.

Criticism - "I thought it was bad and it has to change!"

This is the hardest type of feedback to get. It often causes an emotional reaction when it is received and can cause people to defend their methods instead of looking at how the customer reacted. If we can learn to take criticism on board and learn from it then this type of feedback can lead to a much greater awareness of our weaknesses and how to deal with them.

The key to this type of model is to make us analyse the feedback we get in a different way. By placing it into categories we begin to understand where the person giving the feedback was coming from and we can try to keep our personal feelings in check when reviewing it. If we can determine if a piece of feedback is a compliment, advice, a suggestion or criticism it gives us a much better frame of reference to react in an appropriate way.

So next time you get feedback on an idea, a project, a customer experience, or anything else, why not try using this model and see if it helps you see the information in a different way?


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