Why We Don't See Good, Useful Feedback?

December 12, 2018

The love and hate relationship with feedback

Everyone knows the feeling when a mom or dad, a coach or a teacher, tells us we did a good job, that we played the game well or showed admirable character in a tough situation.  And, of course, everyone knows what it is like to be told we need to do better, that we can study harder or be more of a team player. While positive feedback given to us years ago may still make us smile when we remember it, unfortunately, we are much more likely to remember the negative feedback we have received. According to neuroscientists, our brain processes negative emotion and fear nine times stronger than positive emotion, called Negativity Bias. This negativity hijacks our brain and discourages us when it comes to giving and receiving feedback. Fear is one of the greatest reason that people hesitate to give feedback.   

I emigrated from South Korea to the Netherlands seven years ago. My experience becoming acquainted with people from different backgrounds and cultures helped me become conscious of how feedback operates in conversations and in the process of getting to know other people. This experience led me to seek a new way to give and offer feedback and, eventually, to developing WeQ. WeQ is a new way to make feedback fun, positive and useful.

Why is feedback important?  What do we miss without feedback?

Feedback is fuel for self-knowledge and growth

Your friends and colleagues can offer you valuable insights about your identity. These insights are naturally difficult to see by yourself. Our talents, strengths, and characters are often more visible to those around us than they are to us. Sometimes, for instance, you may not even know you have a talent until someone says, “Hey, you are really good at . . . “.  A good level of self-awareness on your strengths and weakness is a great foundation for growing yourself.

In fact, not all feedback is helpful. When it is used incorrectly feedback can discourage development. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University offers extremely useful insight into the relation between feedback and growth in her book, Growth Mindset.  She distinguishes “Feedback on results” vs “feedback on efforts and processes”. For instance, when a teacher says to a student “You did a great job, you must be really smart”, it actually discourages the student to take on more difficult tasks. This is because the student becomes afraid of failure, wishing to guard the positive evaluation that he or she is smart. Dweck calls this a Fixed Mindset, a belief that ability and intelligence of a person are settled and fixed. In contrast,  an example of feedback promoting growth is following: “This project turned out great. I loved how you invite people to talk about their opinion. You facilitated good ideas in the discussion.” This praise focuses on efforts and processes, not results. It encourages growth mindset that your qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. From Growth Mindset, watch this 3 minutes youtube video)


Positive feedback promotes trust in teams

Our workplaces lack compliments and positive feedback. Indeed, if you interview professionals, as I have, you will hear people say research studying the ratios of positive and negative feedback of 60 business teams, the average ratio for the highest-performing teams was nearly six positive comments for every negative one.  


Making feedback fun and useful

In WeQ, we want to help every professional to unleash the power of feedback for boosting their growth and trust in teams. To do this we had to find clever ways to manage the fear factor involved in feedback experience and also to guide people to give good feedback that actually supports growth.  We thought feedback and interaction could be gamified.  Positive play provides a safe environment whereby people can express how they see each other’s qualities. We take away the complicated efforts of formulating the right wording or balancing out positive and negative messages in the feedback you want to deliver.  At the same time we wanted to enhance the real human to human interaction in the feedback experience as sharing positive emotions and gratitude between people is an important quality to establish mutual trust. This is why we developed the WeQ toolkit as both a deck of cards and an app. The card deck for face-to-face fun interaction promotes wonderful conversation towards developing a growth mindset. The app captures feedback results and develops accurate insights on who you are.

This post was originally published on Hyper Island



Ohyoon Kwon
Ohyoon Kwon is the Founder of WeQ. His background in design thinking has led him to explore the intersection between gamification and building high-performance teams. Ohyoon is passionate about creating amazing user experiences and bringing teams closer together.

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