Giving and Getting Feedback

We wrap-up our discussion of Giving and Getting Feedback in this episode:

  • Our reliance on fast, intuitive decision-making serves us well in many situations. That’s not always true when faced with novel, complex decisions.
  • Frameworks such as Benefits and Concerns, the Ladder of Inference, and the OODA loop can help us slow down our thinking a bit in order to expand our range of choice based on valid information.
  • The result of momentary pauses can be accelerated access to good information, better decisions, and less expensive routes to success.

Read the Video Transcript

Laura, in previous conversations about giving and getting feedback we’ve touched on several themes. We talked about how efficient learning is an imperative for owners of microenterprises. You summarized the basic concepts underlying effective feedback. And along the way, you introduced some tools and techniques that help us elicit feedback. Let’s wrap up by revisiting those themes, and let’s start with the obvious: why is it so important that an otherwise self-sufficient entrepreneur systematically seek out the perspectives of others?

A niche business, almost by definition, can be kind of isolating. You’re doing something that other people aren’t doing. And so deliberately seeking out the perspectives of other people can, over time, help an entrepreneur create a collaborative community as well as reduce your blind spots. The other thing about working alone a lot of the time is that the main voice you hear is the one inside your head, and sometimes that voice can be pretty critical. So I think cultivating opportunities to hear the perspectives of others can ensure that we hear what we’re doing well as well as what we might do differently.

In one of our earlier conversations in this series, you described a tool that you called “Benefits and Concerns” for eliciting feedback. Remind us why you find it so useful.

I really like Benefits and Concerns. For one thing, it’s lightly structured. It’s two questions that we can work into pretty much any conversation in our own voice. The first question is, “What about this is right? What about this is working?” Those are the benefits. And the second question is, “What could be better?” Those are the concerns.

It’s systematic because it helps us make sure that we hear reinforcing—that’s what we should keep doing—as well as balancing feedback. Balancing feedback is the stuff that we should do less of. Both balancing and reinforcing feedback are needed for really efficient learning. If you’re just (hearing) one kind or the other, we’re leaving a lot on the table that is unlearned.

You also talked about something that you called the “Ladder of Inference.” I’ve heard you say that the Ladder of Inference offers a way for us to slow down in order to go faster. What do you mean by that?

The Ladder of Inference helps us recognize all the steps that we automatically take in what feels like a jump from seeing something or hearing something and making a judgment about it. And the act of slowing down helps introduce more choices all along the way. So we can broaden the data that we choose to focus on. We have more choice about how we interpret the data that we focus on. That, in turn, broadens the possible realm of how we decide to act on that. By slowing down and pausing our knee-jerk reactions, we can actually speed up getting good information and choosing the right information to act on, and that helps us achieve our objectives faster.

Although we may want to challenge our intuitions from time to time, you’re not really suggesting that we ignore our gut instincts, right?

Our intuitions serve us well so much of the time. I’m thinking that if we really cultivate this ability to give and get feedback on a regular basis, then we can supplement our intuitions, compliment our intuitions, and sometimes even substantiate more thoroughly our intuitions. And that helps us act more effectively.

So in closing, what are the key messages you’d like to leave with our viewers?

Cultivating collaborative skills—including valuing valid information, informed choice, and respect for individual volition—really can help us learn from a wider variety of people in a wider variety of interactions. And learning efficiently helps us get where we want to go faster.

I also want people to understand that we can trust the iterative process of going through the OODA learning cycle. OODA is Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. And we talked about how going through that cycle faster or more frequently—even on worse information—can get us where we want to go faster. I really think that—if we can adopt the mindset that no one trip through the OODA loop is a make or break situation, (and) every trip through the OODA loop helps us get for we want to go—then we can have a mindset that helps us learn more efficiently with less effort. That, in turn, helps us achieve our goals faster.