Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Close
Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: Don’t be afraid – You won’t learn unless you ask — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Archive: Don’t be afraid – You won’t learn unless you ask — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

December 13th, 2013

Career Opportuntiies Logo 2012

No matter who you are, where you live or what you do, if you really want to learn something about your work, your ideas or a particular product, you only have to ask. Of course, asking for feedback can feel embarrassing and even frightening. Still, listening to other’s consul and opinion is one of the most important ways that we learn to improve our own ideas.

Listen to this Podcast


 

 
 
Books by Douglas E. Welch
  

The idea for this column came to me as I was watching a presentation at BarCampLA-3 (http://barcampla.org/), an un-conference here in Los Angeles that runs about every 6 months. One of the first sessions was Susie from SuperViva.com, a goal-tracking web site. I was impressed with the site, but I was even more impressed with Susie. She demonstrated the site and then asked everyone in attendance for their comments, questions and ideas. That takes guts! It also provided her with a wealth of information on what new features people might want and how to modify the site to better meet the members’ needs. Susie clearly thought her site was ready for review and knew she needed input from a wide variety of people, so BarCampLA offered her a great opportunity.

Now, you don’t have to go as far as presenting your work in a public forum, at least not yet, but there is a variety of ways to put the power of “asking” behind any of your projects, personal or professional. Start small and then grow into more public environments and larger groups of people as your project matures.

The first step in getting feedback on your ideas or projects is to collect a trusted and smart group of friends. Once you feel you have your idea in some basic form, take the idea to them and ask them what they think. This initial discussion can, and should, alter your original idea, adding features, removing others and getting you to the next step.

You start with a small group so you can acclimate yourself to the fear that all of us feel when we ask others about our ideas. We worry that others will hate the idea or even worse, want to change the idea so much that it no longer feels like our own. This fear is real and palpable. It is also the one thing that can keep you from learning and growing, so it must be overcome at all costs. Some of us can dismiss it through our own willpower. Others, like myself, will have to use tricks or rewards or otherwise force us beyond the fear. Whatever method you find best, you must move beyond the fear.

After your initial round of feedback, and any tweaks you have made to your idea or project, it is time to implement the first version. This version doesn’t have to be complete, but it should offer some clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish. Now it’s time to expand your feedback group. From the very beginning, everyone should be enticed to provide feedback on your idea or project.

Nothing can replace this hands on “usability” testing that the only the real world can provide. You will quickly notice issues and you should work just as quickly to resolve them. Sometimes, you might change one feature, only to realize that the initial idea was better. Change it back. Do whatever it takes to meet your user’s needs. I can guarantee that you will be learning something important every day.

Now that you have your idea or project in some basic shape, you repeat the process with an even larger group. This new group will bring different needs, thoughts and experiences to your project and help to refine it even more. Their ideas might contradict the concerns of earlier users, but you might find that this is simply a sign that a feature doesn’t work as well for 1,000 people as it did for 100. Again, you tweak and change, add and remove features and continue refining your ideas.

At this point, you have probably started to communicate your idea to the world at large, but this certainly doesn’t mean you stop taking input from those around you. In fact, this process should continue for the life of your product or service. If you don’t make a concerted effort to continually receive and act on feedback, you are stunting the growth of your ideas and business. 

***

Comments are closed.
Google+