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The Feedback Loop

Now that your plans are in motion and you need to keep to your schedule through personal discipline, it’s time to discuss the vital nature of feedback.

To show just why it’s vital, let’s look at a common situation where feedback is lacking: learning to use new home computer.

You sit there while the computer boots up. The operating system has been updated since your last computer, but you’re familiar with the basics, and soon you have your browser up and your primary software loaded.

Except one of your programs isn’t working right. It seemed to install just fine, but it’s not giving you a new worksheet. You click, and then your click some more. Nothing happens. You have no idea what’s going on, what the problem is, or how to fix it.

You’re clueless because the computer is giving you no feedback (other than that something, somewhere is wrong).

Perhaps at this point you find yourself muttering imprecations, flipping through online manuals, and calling up the Help function. Finally, you get the computer to run a diagnostic and it tells you a driver needs to be updated. Success! You install the new driver, and you get the new worksheet. From one little bit of feedback you solve the problem.

Of course, it would have been nice if getting that feedback hadn’t taken three hours and a lot of cursing, but hey, nothing’s perfect.

Indeed, you count yourself lucky. Most computer feedback is garbage. Basically, the computer will just demonstrate that something is wrong by not working right, and what error message you do get is either too vague (Error detected) or too technical (“Null” is null or not an object) to be of any help.

So, you had a problem, and without feedback, there was nothing you could do. With the right feedback (i.e., why there was a problem and how to fix it), you were golden.

Helpful Feedback

As you implement your plans and work on your life goals—something much more complicated than learning your way around a new computer—you need to create a vibrant, helpful feedback loop so you can course-correct as needed. This has nothing to do with a lack of confidence. This is about recognizing your need for information. When something goes right or wrong, you need to know why, either to replicate that success or to fix the problem and be successful.

What are the qualities of helpful feedback?

  • The feedback must be from an expert, or at least someone with more experience than you.
  • The feedback must be logical and provided in a way that makes sense to you.
  • The feedback must be informative. Having someone tell you do something to fix the problem without telling you why it works is not that helpful. How can you prepare for similar problems without understanding the nature of the problem?
  • The feedback must be relevant to your success. It should not stroke your ego or knock you down.

Recognizing this, you can see the next step is setting up a feedback system, or loop, as other blog posts will explain in detail.