I like Goldsmith’s idea of feedforward, which essentially states that input should be focused on what improvements can be made for the future, rather than concentrating on the flaws of what has already happened. Generally, I completely agree with this idea, but I think it has two important caveats that go unmentioned in the article:
- Not all things are set in stone. Stories, documents, plans, and so on can be changed, and often their revision with external input is a critical part of their creation. Focusing too much on the future can rob you of a lot of improvement in what you’re working on now.
- All worthwhile “feedforward” will be based on the critics experience of the other person’s past work. It has to be based in what they have already seen of the other person’s work and attitudes. So, “feedforward” isn’t distinct from feedback in origin or content — it’s really just an issue of framing.
I also liked Grant’s article. I dislike giving vapid, empty feedback but often find myself in a similar situation, unsure of how to present it in a way that doesn’t feel like an attack. I’m a strong believer that negative feedback — even when blunt, unpleasant, and even in bad faith — is critical and often positive in the long run: a lack of it prevents people from improving themselves and their skills and often leads to delusions (or just confusion) that are far more devastating when broken after a long time. Given that, I like Grant’s point that the most important thing about negative feedback isn’t softening it with meek platitudes: it’s explicitly clarifying that the point of the negative feedback is that you have faith in the other person’s ability to do better.
I’ve heard the lack of that called the “tyranny of low expectations,” and I don’t think there’s any better phrase. It might be comfortable now, but in the long run, it’s devastating.
(Of course, there is a balance: if people are scared to try, that is just as bad. Like everything, it’s all about equilibrium.)