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Feedback Loops

I was reading this article recently about why feedback sucks. Not in the way we tend to feel it sucks (because you get negative comments). Rather that what we're looking for when we seek feedback is actually a poor way of asking for it. It speaks to our need for input that we can use in the future. When we ask for feedback, the reason why we get "negative" responses is because we're asking people to look only into our past. Often though, when asking for feedback what we really mean is "how can I be better next time?" This article pits the terms feedback and advice against each other for a professional and personal intervention.


Feedback is fundamentally about assessing work and actions that already exist to be evaluated. Advice asks what we can do for the future. Neither is right or wrong, but it's important to ask what's needed most for a particular context. Is the product already created, or are we looking forward to one that doesn't yet exist? Tense should inform the request.


This felt so relevant to me as both a writer and as a 9 to 5 professional. Why do we talk about feedback so much if we're really looking to the future? Is it because advice feels like having to welcome any suggestion? Is advice more difficult to parse because we would need to establish new parameters for what is worth considering? Is the potential range of suggestions too broad when we aren't only evaluating the past?


I'd like to posit that the last query has more to offer than appears on the surface. If you follow the link above to the definition of feedback, you will see that it deals in the confines of computing. It reinforces that what requires adjusting is a program that already exists. It was about fine tuning. Advice is about so much more than that. It's about new possibilities, creative avenues that may fall outside the bounds of the parameters that, sure, may be far-fetched, but what if...?


If we take feedback, we're keeping the same program. If we take advice, we might just write a new one.



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