Good Feedback is Hard

I am sitting in a local coffee shop as two gentlemen discuss a startup that one of them is working on.  Their conversation reminds me how hard it is to both give and receive useful feedback.  I do not profess to be a product manager so some of these ideas might be obvious to you, but I feel like bad feedback can fall into the following categories:

On The Giving End
1.  Circle Jerk.  Sorry for the crude term, I acquired it from my friend Francis.  Basically, this is when people try to get each other off.  It’s when the person giving feedback just blindly approves and pumps the other person up.  We all need a good pump up every now and then, but we don’t want a “yes man”.
The two men at the coffee shop were discussing some silly app idea regarding coffee that had me questioning the premise.  But his friend was all in, pumping the entrepreneur up, creating silly scenarios to validate the idea, etc…  The man said “that’s awesome” about ten times.  It’s awesome that the entrepreneur was trying to do something on his own, but the idea was definitely not awesome.
2.  Fixer.  On the other end of the spectrum, this person feels compelled to give some sort of constructive feedback.  He or she is trying to be helpful, but the feedback is not often not quality feedback.  Often, it is a very personal opinion that will have almost no affect on the adoption of your product or the satisfaction of the users.
3.  Your Aunt.  This is a person that isn’t part of your user base.  He or she doesn’t get what you are doing and will probably suggest something totally arbitrary.  If someone that is not in your target user base doesn’t want the product, that is not a big deal.

On The Receiving End
1.  Ignoring Quality Feedback.  Sometimes we will say “what does he know” or “she doesn’t know what she is talking about, she is just one person”.  But if that person is smart, experienced, and part of your target user base then you shouldn’t shrug off feedback so easily.
2.  Taking all Feedback To Heart.  Every user is special and will have one or two things that only apply to them.  Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to make everyone 100% happy.  Time is precious and you also don’t want to cloud your product.

I am probably preaching to the choir here, but thought I’d state some observations.

Good luck,
-Larry

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