The good, the bad and the ugly. What do we learn from feedback?

I’ve been reading the first couple of reviews of my book. It’s an enlightening, worrying and somewhat challenging experience. Writing is very personal, something that you own yourself, something that is given permanence in print or on screen and something that, once published (or blogged, Tweeted) is there for everyone to consume and comment on.

Feedback is therefore part of the game, indeed, it is the game in a very meaningful sense: this blog is founded on the principles of being collaborative, original and only ever positive in spirit. This means that i have to be able to take it as much as i give it.

In reality, i’ve been very lucky, with both reviews i’ve read being both kind and positive. What it has highlighted for me is how collaboration has strengthened my own work. For example, one piece of feedback was about how they liked the practical tips. Left to my own devices, there would have been fewer of these, but both Caron and Lizi, who are my right and left hands when it comes to actually being organised enough to get to print, insisted.

I’ve also been running a large post project review this week. In line with most projects, some things have gone well, others less so. The feedback has been highly structured and, importantly, positive. There has been a focus on learning, not on recrimination.

I think this is something we see in the most productive collaborations: respect that each party brings expertise, a desire to learn and a willingness to listen.

Which makes me wonder about whether we should always seek feedback in learning? We tend to embed it in all sorts of organisational processes: performance review and management, end of project reviews, 360 degree feedback, all sorts of ways that we invite feedback, but we rarely pay attention to the context or collaboration that underlies it. Like most of us, if i get feedback from someone i do not respect, someone who i do not like, i nod, smile and ignore it. Rightly or wrongly, i have to be in the right frame of mind to take it. Rightly or wrongly, that’s significant.

That doesn’t meant that we should just take positive feedback, just that, in order to be effective, there has to be a foundation of commonality, a shared understanding, some level of respect and recognition. It may simply be that we need to run deeper conversations before asking for feedback, to build a relationship more strongly before inviting the comments.

I’m just thinking at a very practical, pragmatic level that it’s easy to get lots of feedback, but not really of much use if we are not in the right mindset to process it. Maybe there is more to it than we often think?

We know for sure that agile learners, people who are going to be successful in today’s rapidly evolving and networked knowledge economy are those who can adapt, who can listen, who can collaborate. Maybe it’s time to update organisational processes to keep up?

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Agile, Blog, Blogging, Book, Challenge, Collaboration, Introspection, Perspective, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The good, the bad and the ugly. What do we learn from feedback?

  1. reluctantwritergirl says:

    It is a daunting process to write a bit of your heart and soul and then have someone critique it. Yet I do agree that there is always something to learn from it. Take what resounds with you and leave what doesn’t.

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