We all grow up receiving feedback that we never ask for. Because it’s usually painful, we learn to avoid asking for it. As a result, we also fail to benefit from its incredible power: it makes everything better.
But, not all feedback is created equal. We can harness the power of high-quality feedback if we focus on first answering these questions.
1. Who should I ask? Seek high value and best intention
Carefully choose who you seek feedback from, so you spend more time pursuing the best version of your idea and less time defending it.
Seek feedback from people who will support and encourage you with high-value constructive feedback — not distraction and discouragement.
The quality of the feedback is more important than the quantity of the feedback.
Make a list of the following kinds of people and ask for their help:
- People who have an interest in helping you build a better version of your product or service.
- People who will use your product or service.
- People who currently use a product or service like yours.
- People who have experience creating something similar.
Here’s who not to ask: your mother.
Also don’t ask people who think you’re perfect and love everything you do, which is why you don’t need to ask them. Similarly, avoid asking anyone who developed the idea with you. They suffer from the same pride and drank the same Kool-Aid you did.
2. When should I ask? Early and often
You should collect as much feedback as you can, as early as you can. Don’t waste time.
When you first ask, you only get a first impression. It’s fresh and raw, but there’s also more. If you ask again later, you get feedback that is more thoughtful. The person you asked has thought about your idea a bit more thoroughly through their own experience — and may have discussed it with someone else. So, asking often gives you higher quality feedback.
Obviously, if circumstances change or your idea takes a new shape, ask again.
Pro tip: Ask for feedback about the feedback early on. You may be surprised at what you learn.
Download our free ebook on how to ask for help at work:
3. How should I ask? Simple and motivating
If you are seeking high-quality feedback from people you will ask multiple times, then make it easy for them to help you.
Ask yourself, “What can I ask that will generate the highest value feedback, and what’s the simplest way to ask it?”
You can also offer the person you are seeking feedback from options. You can ask, “Do you think this is not working as we expected because: a) we are focused on the wrong group of customers; b) our service is missing this feature, or c) something else?” Help fill in some of the blanks for them to help you get clearer feedback.
Which brings us to motivate people to keep giving you feedback.
The most effective way to motivate people to keep giving you feedback is by showing your honest intention to incorporate their feedback and sharing your process with them. In other words, bring their feedback to life. Incorporate their feedback, even if it is a variation of it, and show it to them. It’s your way of thanking and praising them — showing them their role in helping you improve your product or service. Customers, in particular, will begin to think and act like owners of the product.
4. Why bother at all? Pride and kool-aid
If you are not yet sure whether you should go in search of feedback, consider the alternative.
When we create anything — a new idea, product or service — it is deeply personal and a reflection of us. Danger creeps in because we start to believe our creation is amazing. When we become drunk in love on our own kool-aid we risk everything. The risk is existential. We start to believe our new product is perfect because we know our customers best, and don’t bother asking them for feedback. We become comfortable, complacent, and “suddenly” our customers leave.
Avoid this sobering experience by incorporating feedback into everything you do. It is the only mechanism that will help you avoid costly mistakes and evolve your idea.
Feedback is rocket fuel — it can propel your idea forward. Next time you start thinking your creation is amazing, prove it to yourself by asking for high-quality feedback from the right people right away.
About the Author
Rodrigo is an attorney turned entrepreneur. His most recent company is www.happyatwork.co. You can find him on twitter @rlope.