The Next One

During a Sponsor Session for a recent event, a Sponsor challenged us to make ‘this one’—the one for his organization—'the best.'

The comment provoked Matt to recall something Frank Lloyd Wright said a half-century ago. Matt shared the memory this way:

“It was in an interview in the mid 50s with Hugh Downs, I believe. Asked which was his best building, Wright said, ‘my dear boy (anyone under 60 was a boy to FLW), the NEXT one.’"

Wright’s comment captures the essence of why both collecting and using feedback is of such importance. From a design sense, feedback is what links the past to the future in a meaningful way. Yet, it seems all too rare that we treat the collection and offering of feedback seriously, let alone systemically.

Its important to note that feedback of some or many kinds is available to us whether or not we create intentional means of collecting it. One way or another, we will be innundated with feedback on our design and performance. The critical issue is how do we create a framework that elicits a response that is honest, communicable, storable, and most essentially, useful to improving our design and performance over time.

The importance of the questions we ask and how we phrase them cannot be overestimated. What is the context in which we anticipate using the information we gather? Do the questions focus on usefulness and value, rather than likes and dislikes? What is the mixture of open-ended and precise queries? Does it balance templated responses with free ones?

In providing feedback, we must keep in mind that our responses are not the end point, but rather an early step in the iterative design process. The value of our experience can only transcend the experience itself if we seek to share what we’ve learned by a means that can be understood by those who will apply these learnings in the next design.

The song Freewill by the rock group Rush includes the lyric, "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." In a similar way, not offering feedback is in itself feedback, though it may be considered low-key.

The most impactful feedback mechanisms elicit information in the form of experiences, stories and "tiny explosions of clarity," to use a phrase I heard Garrison Keillor use once upon a time. These moments are precious opportunities to make a significant impact on how the next event will unfold.