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Random, semi-connected, unfinished thoughts on this:

  1. A so called ‘culture of feedback’ is conceptually overrated. It has become one of the new management religions and, as such, institutionalized quickly. Elevated to dogma.
  1. A ‘culture of feedback’ is not one of giving feedback systematically and unsolicited. It needs mutual agreement. It needs trust between people and a healthy use of a ‘safe, shared psychological space’. The best real culture of feedback is  one where feedback is given, it is normal, but it does not cross anybody’s mind to call it ‘culture of feedback’. Human dialogue takes place safely, all parts appreciate it, and there is no fuss about it.
  1. We have glorified feedback-because-we-can. Automatic post speech/presentation/talk feedback forms, and smiling face buttons in airport security and toilets may be cathartic for the frustrated audience, or a safety valve for conference organizers and contracted cleaners, but these do not make the whole thing meaningful. There are hundred reasons to take any result of those ‘feed back surveys’ with a hundred pinches of salt.
  1. It seems worse in the management world. We just can’t help it. We love surveying.  In fact, it could be grotesque. You don’t go to a concert and fill in a form at the end: Did you think the conductor was well prepared? Did the violins know the score? Was the piece too long? I have seen world experts speaking on something only them know, and feedback forms in operation at the end: Did the speaker know the topic? Was the content relevant and appropriate? And what about the slides?
  1. Sure, we have become a TripAdvisor society. Management in organizations must resist the tripadvisorization of the relationships. Managers given feedback to people is an obligation. But this is not a culture of feedback, it is a culture of good management.
  1. Obligatory (define and qualify the word as you wish) multi-directional, 24/7 feedback is pathetic. It makes relationships like a contest.
  1. A ‘culture of feedback’, if you insist in one of these, has to have, as I said above, trust, psychological safe spaces, and meaning. Giving input (feedback) not knowing what will happen to it, is demotivating. Requesting it systematically, is exhausting.
  1. In the early days of Viral Change™ research on the behavioural side of CRMs, I called ‘ blind input’ this sequence that many people consistently referred to me: I give input (into the CRM) but I don’t know what ‘they’ will do with that. It was hated by people and it was at the core of that CRM system failure. You were asked to input data, for example customer data, but you never knew the impact of that. It was lost in a black box. Give it a few weeks and people would stop doing it, if they could get away with that. And indeed they could. The only way we could fix it was to provide feedback to the users in the form of  ‘Thanks for sending A.B,C. As a result of this, X,Y,Z could segment that piece of the market, so and so happen, such and such is now better understood’, etc.  Something happened, this is the impact of your input (it did not have to be grandiose), it was not wasted.
  1. Part of the glorification of feedback as a necessary, obligatory sign of healthy culture – a truly flawed argument – comes from the cultural assumption that the organization must run as a large group psychotherapy. It doesn’t. Extreme psychologizing of human relationships (let’s stop and analyse, test how we feel, explore the dynamics, the reactions, what I meant and what you heard, how I was too bold and you were too sensitive, you were defensive, I was attacking, you said, I said) leads to a very neurotic organization. Doing zero of these is equally neurotic. Collective sanity is in the right dose. For me, trained as a psychiatrist, I am always expected to say, do a fair bit or a lot of this. But my preferred dose is an almost homeopathic dose.
  1. It is the same with personal, couple relationships. Analyse everything, you’ll kill them. Keep some distance, some secret, some unknown, it will stay healthy. Adolescents dwell in the analysis of the relationship. It is the Jamesian ‘their relationship consisted in discussing if it existed’. We are often not far away from this in inward-looking, navel-gazing organizations. Obviously not time to look at the customer here; we are too busy in internal feedback shooting.
  1. Constant psychologizing  killed communal experiments in the 60’s and converted organizational life in a psychodynamic laboratory in the 70s, 80s, and beyond. Today, the illness is a bit more banal but based upon the same assumption: feedback is always good, the more the better. But the organization is not a cybernetic machine with mental thermostats and constant feed  back loops.
  1. So you know, I think feedback is good . But only when I am asking for it in a safe environment and if I know it is going to help me, that I will do something about it. As I said before, this has nothing to do with management, with the obligation of managers to provide an assessment, evaluation, redirection, praise, or warning.



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  1. Lisa

    Firstly, thanks, always, for your daily insights – I read daily!
    Can you explain what a homeopathic dose might look like in an organization striving for “healthy” feedback?
    As well, might you define what collective sanity might look like for an organization that has, traditionally, relied on a clear hierarchy and is striving for a more “flat” or democratic org chart.
    Thank you

    • Leandro Herrero

      Lisa, thanks. Let me get back to you asap via email. Traveling heavily now – give me a few days AND shout if you dont hear form me! 🙂

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