Feedback is greater than building

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Large Hadron Collider

No matter what you’re working on, in the long run, getting and using feedback to learn is the most important aspect of it all.

For me, I’ve seen this in learning about markets, delivering software products to markets, and learning how to function as a software team.

When building software, it may be hubris and ego that make us strive to find the “right” answer ourselves from the start. Then once we have the answer, we focus on building it. However, deep down or when we stop to think (thinking slow) about it, most modern product development people know learning is the most important part of what we do.

“Optimize for learning” is something many people say they do, but few actually do. What would it look like if that were actually true?

Did you spend more time planning your product/solution or planning how to get people to care (excited/interested/angry) enough to give you feedback?

Did you spend more time on “how the team works” (here is the right process for the team) or on “how the team will iterate on feedback” (here’s how to provide feedback and adapt easily)?

Focus, optimization, and priority all kind of mean the same thing — all mean this is what matters most. If what matters most is learning, spend time setting up feedback loops. If learning matters most, spend the most time on understanding and designing the feedback loop.

A good feedback loop requires that people are excited about what they’re doing, their feedback is meaningful and accurate, it’s clear how the feedback will get incorporate, and there are lean cycle times to speed up the feedback process.

Then repeat, doing all the steps, again and again. That is, keep investing more time in the feedback process than in the building process. It’s a challenging constraint, maybe impossible to actually spend more time on feedback and learning (than on building), but success is in pushing it as far as possible.

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