May the Obvious Make You Curious

Today, Eric Paley posted a great piece on Inc. tackling the idea of “obvious feedback”. In the piece he rightly points out the irony that the best advice is often the most obvious. It struck me as a simple maxim that carries many complexities. It had me thinking about the many nuances of feedback…

When we ask for feedback, we’re often looking for novelty
As Eric points out, we rush past the obvious, often looking to discover something we haven’t heard before (silver bullet theory). If the feedback is familiar, it’s easy to be dismissive. In this hunt for novelty, we’re blinded to things we should make the priority. It seems important to have the self-awareness to recognize that if you’re hearing the same feedback over and over, you still have the same issues.

We often treat feedback as a to-do list
It’s easy to look for action in people’s feedback. After all, hearing how things might be better can feel like a directive to go make them better. OK, maybe. But could you look for patterns in the feedback that reveal a bigger principle? Instead of just inspiring action, could that feedback help you think differently about the problem you’re solving? (Feedback often pushes us to focus on outcomes, rather than the problem we’re solving.)

Feedback should make you curious
To the core point of the article, when you’re swimming in obvious feedback, how do you do anything with it? If it’s obvious, you been there before. You’ve probably tried to solve it already. I would offer that the more obvious the feedback is, the more curious you must become. Be curious around what prompted the feedback; be curious around why it feels so obvious.

Dismissing the familiar is a funny thing; it’s either the best idea, or the absolute worst.

(Full disclosure, Eric’s a personal friend…and an excellent guy.)

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