Feedback is important. Most people will agree on this. But how often do we ask for feedback? My guess is that not very often.
More frequently, we ask for advice. But asking for advice is a whole different story. It’s not the same to ask someone what she thinks about an investment option we are considering, than to ask her what she thinks about our work evaluating the same investment option.
Asking for feedback exposes us, it makes us vulnerable. It requires overcoming the fear of failure, and being open to the possibility of hearing that our work is not as great as we think.
But alas, we could reframe the story from a different angle. Not asking for feedback is risky because we could be missing the opportunity to bring our work from good to great. Or to become better ourselves. Anybody really thinks she or he has nothing to improve?
Feedback is essential for anything that matters. Linus Torvalds is best known as the creator of Linux, the operating system that runs a large portion of the servers on the internet. In an interview by TED’s curator Chris Anderson, Torvalds explains that since very early in the development of Linux, he asked the developer community for feedback. Although a brilliant person and a proficient engineer and programmer, Torvalds felt the need to hear other people’s opinion about his ideas and his work:
“Look, I’ve been working on this for half a year, I’d love to have comments.” It didn’t even start by people contributing code, it was more that people started contributing ideas. And just the fact that somebody else takes a look at your project — and I’m sure it’s true of other things, too, but it’s definitely true in code — is that somebody else takes an interest in your code, looks at it enough to actually give you feedback and give you ideas… that was a huge thing for me. (4:42 min)
Of course, not every comment on your work is good feedback. Seth Godin writes that “Empty criticism and snark does no one any good. But genuine, useful, insightful feedback is a priceless gift.”
So, when was the last time you asked for feedback?