Feedback — why you really, really should take the time

Everybody loves talking about themselves. Maybe not in every situation, but most of the things someone says are about them. So a feedback session is basically just an opportunity to hear others talk about you too!

In the very first introductory UX course I took, we talked about feedback and the importance of giving it, receiving it, viewing it as a gift and so on. Yet it took me more than a year to really implement it in my working with teams. Why? I have no idea. I think it took me that long to really see the value, and I only saw the value when I had a formalised need for reviewing myself — when I started working on a portfolio. Also, I reconnected with the teacher from that very first introductory course and it reminded me of what I already knew about feedback.

I have a strip of paper (because I am Chaos I just write on whatever piece of scrap paper I have closest at hand) that reads as follows:

“KRAFT KREATIVITET HUMOR Kloker&Toker MOD som skapar trygghet i gruppen INITIATIV”

Loosely translated “power, creativity, humor, Doc&Dopey (like the dwarfs), courage that creates comfort in the group, initiative”. This was from my first really structured feedback session in a group after a school assignment. Just realizing how other people view me was an eye opener for me. I have known me my whole life, like a childhood friend is still that same friend in your eyes, so am I in my eyes a weird, scared, angry and socially incompetent besserwisser-weirdo, and that’s what I think others see as well. So I overcompensate with all I’ve learned since childhood, and what others see is apparently this amazing person that I would love to get to know.

Using these well-articulated words in my portfolio also works as a driving force for me. Now that I know that my tendency to take up a lot of talking space — something me AND society views as a negative thing, as I happen to be female — actually can create a safe space in my team where people less prone to oversharing feels comfortable to at least share. Since I am viewed as a powerhouse, a force, I can apply that force when needed to drive the team forward and ease up on the force in other situations.

Since that feedback session my archive of feedback has grown. Now I have a stack of random odd paper stubs with things I need to work on, things I’m good at, and so on, and I apply these learnings in each new project. I have a way of communicating very directly so now I make a point of emphasizing that what I’m saying isn’t absolute truth but a suggestion. I have a tendency to take over conversation so now I make sure I ask the others on their opinion. I often take initiative — when needed I will suggest other people in the group for tasks or roles.

I’ve put myself in a greenhouse where I speed-grow my own desired qualities and replace the not needed ones with more desired ones. All thanks to feedback. And thanks to feedback I have a repertoar of personal Unique Selling Points that I can leaf through next time I’m in talks with a potential employer.

So my tip for any budding UX designer — DEMAND feedback, ACCEPT feedback, APPLY feedback. Whenever you work in a group, make feedback sessions a regular thing, maybe once per sprint or something. Let everyone take a minute to think about and write down, then go around and let everyone have a minute to talk about your strengths, what you need to improve on, and what you can do to improve upon those things. It’s not hard, it just needs to be done.