Innovation is creativity that produces positive results
Feedback is the mechanism to measure those results. Both design thinking and lean startup innovation strategies emphasize the importance of building in feedback early and often so that positive results can be maximized and negative results can be minimized.
You may be committed to gather feedback so that the idea’s results can be assessed, and a persist or pivot decision can be made, but what feedback is there to gather? Sometimes the metrics are entirely obvious – more sales, more likes, more calls. But what if the desired outcome is more abstract, like your user community finds it easier? How do you measure that?
Automated surveys have the advantages of being repeatable (they are presented in the same way), immediate (a survey can be placed right in-line with an online service, or an email follow-up survey can be sent once the user interaction is complete), and inexpensive – or even free.
If the questions you pose are quantitative (like the Likert scale), the result can be unequivocally measured against previous iterations of the product or service.
The downsides include the possibility of low engagement rates and quality as people just click through to avoid the nuisance without considering their answers carefully. This is particularly true if the users find themselves at the tail end of multiple iterations, answering the same questions over and over.
Although participation may be spotty, it is often more revealing to survey with qualitative, open ended questions.
“I like, I wish, I wonder” is a framework for soliciting constructive feedback proposed by Akshay Kothari. The method invites users to describe what they like about the product or service, what they wish were different about it, and wonder in their response how it could be improved.
The first step in design thinking is to empathize with the user community for whom you are designing your product or service. This typically means observing their interaction with it. This same process can be used to validate the designed improvement your product or service provides.
It is tempting to focus observation on the most vocal users of your product, but beware that they may represent edge cases – aim instead for a random sampling of users to observe.
Empty your cup
Receiving negative feedback is never easy, especially if you have devoted energy and creativity to the product or service you are presenting. It is easy to conclude that the user simply doesn’t “get it”. If you are not careful, you will wind up giving the users feedback, instead of accepting it from them.
The phrase “empty your cup” is from an old Chinese proverb. It draws a parallel between seeking knowledge when your head is already full and adding tea to a cup that is already full. The result is the same – what is new simply overflows, wasted.