Nic Bovee

Husband, Father, and Solver of Problems.

Are you really offering "constructive" feedback?

Fri Sep 11 2015

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As a kid, my mother used to constantly remind me to "clean up my room".

I had two main methods for doing this:

Method 1(My method): Push everything in the closet and make my room look clean due to an absence of  toys and clutter that  had until that point covered the floor.

Method 2(My mother's method): Take everything out of it's place, and spend time considering why I had placed it where i placed it and whether or not I could move it to somewhere better, or lose it all together.

Method 1 allows me to show that I cared enough to give my room a pat on the shoulder, and get it to a point where it looked clean.

Method 2 allows me to challenge the systems at play in my room. It gives me the opportunity to see if there is a better way to sort everything. Method 2 changes everything. It allows the room to stay clean even when I'm not occupying it. The well thought out systems can hold the room together as long as the next person stays true to them.

As Seth Godin says: "The first rule of great feedback is this: No one cares about your opinion."

If someone asks you for feedback, they are opening the door to their room and inviting you to clean it up. You can say something like "Good Job" or "This is great!" The problem with that kind of feedback is that it doesn't change anything. It doesn't improve anything. The same goes for the people who say: "this sucks" or "I don't get it". It serves no purpose. Start by asking why a certain decision was made.

If someone asks you for feedback, challenge the ideas that they present and start a conversation with them about those ideas. If you challenge a component of the essay, building, web site, etc., one of two things will happen. The person receiving feedback will either have a great explanation for choices they made on that component and will defend it. The alternative is they will realize that whatever it is must be changed, and will change it.

If the point of the constructive feedback is to build something better, do everyone (yourself included) a favor and start by challenging everything. Too many projects have failed because they left the gate saturated with the words of those who simply agree with the idea and move forward.

Stop wasting time.

Start challenging the smaller details.

Ship something through challenges made by real people.