Last month, more than 140 feedback enthusiasts gathered in Washington DC at the second annual Feedback Summit – Feedback Summit 2016: From Talk to Action. This year’s conversations centered on concrete, practical steps towards closing feedback loops in our work. While Feedback Summit 2015 explored why closing feedback loops is the right thing to do, and the Smart Summit 2016 focused on why closing feedback loops is the smart thing to do, Feedback Summit 2016 focused on making it feasible to close feedback loops.
Here at Feedback Labs it’s important to us that we walk the feedback talk. We’re discovering and refining new feedback practices as we go along. We are excited to share with you three feedback lessons we learned over the course of our two day Summit.
1. Focus on “You said, We did”. Feedback mechanisms don’t always have to employ the latest technology. Our “You said, We heard” framework started as a GoogleDoc to help our team make sure that we took into consideration the feedback received from last year’s Summit as we planned this year’s. Some of the feedback we heard in 2015 was easy to prioritize, like offering healthy food options. Some we used to change the whole event, like co-creating the agenda with Summit participants. And some we tried to address but failed to, including hosting more feedback champions from the global south.
Listening and acting is an iterative process. In response to feedback on the 2015 Summit we focused the 2016 Summit on feasibility. But the specificity of that topic left some new members at the 2016 summit feeling like they had missed the introductory basics. By communicating what we’ve heard and what actions we’ve taken in response to that feedback, we hope to iterate our way to an annual Feedback Summit that works for every member of the feedback community.
2. Invite real-time feedback. By the start of the Summit, we knew we wanted to be gathering and acting on feedback throughout the course of the two days. But few things sounded scarier than the possibility that feedback would lead to a dramatic shift in our agenda. We were nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but our facilitator encouraged us to persevere through the discomfort.
Halfway through the first day of the Summit, we asked our attendees to “pop-up” and share any feedback that was on their minds. Some dramatically increased the effectiveness of the sessions that followed. For example, one attendee suggested having each breakout discussant give a sales pitch for their session immediately before disbursing into the break-out rooms. Participants were more effectively able to self select into the right sessions, bringing the right people into the room, and resulting in deeper conversations.Other pieces of feedback weren’t possible to address, but got added into our feedback for next year’s Summit. But without taking the risk to ask for real-time feedback, our community members may not have been able to make the most out of each session.
3. Make time to process insights. In the days prior to the Summit we collaborated with Insights.us, a feedback web platform, to learn about what our community needed to close feedback loops in the 6 months after the Summit. Be we didn’t want to interpret the feedback we received in isolation – we included the feedback community in figuring out what the insights contained in that feedback meant for a collective agenda for action. They came up with much better ideas than we could have on our own. For example, our community has helped us craft the next Feedback Labs endeavour: an “SOS Platform” to connect people with feedback-related challenges to others who can help them. Stage one of this switchboard service is underway. Do you need help on a tough feedback challenge? E-mail SOS@feedbacklabs.org and we will connect you to feedback experts who can offer their experience and advice on getting through that stage of the loop.