How did some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world get to the position they enjoy today? It’s a question that has attracted thousands of articles and the attention of hundreds of bloggers all over the world. For many entrepreneurs, success was just blind luck. They happened to be in the right place at the right time. But sheer luck can’t explain it all. There must be something else going on.
Take Elon Musk, for instance. Nobody – not even the car industry – thought that the best way to make money in the automotive world was to set up a new company and try to flog electric vehicles. But that’s precisely what Musk set out to do and, as of late 2018, his plan seems to be working. You would hardly call Musk’s success the product of luck. Very little has gone his way, whether it’s laws preventing his company from selling directly to customers, massive short interest in the company stock, or constant issues with production. So there must be something else going on.
And there is. The driving force behind all of Musks decisions is feedback. He’s gone on the record stating that he goes out of his way to get feedback, even if it’s negative. He points out that it’s often difficult to get people to give negative opinions of your product or work because of their belief that you’ll be offended, and so many entrepreneurs never discover what they’re doing wrong. But Musk is different. He’s got a thick skin, and he’s happy with anybody – customers or colleagues – providing him with information that could ultimately lead to a better business brand.
The results speak for themselves. Tesla has produced some of the best cars ever made, an astonishing feat for a new car company, and even more impressive when you consider that the technology behind the vehicles is utterly different from that of existing auto manufacturers. The focus on product refinement has led to Tesla becoming the first truly disruptive force in the auto industry since Henry Ford nearly a century ago. SpaceX, Musk’s other venture, is also now dominating the space launch industry and expects to capture half of the satellite launch market as early as next year.
Being able to accept and use feedback, therefore, is essential. It’s how businesses thrive and improve on their products. Is your company making good use of feedback? Here are some things to bear in mind.
Feedback Is A Skill
You might think that giving feedback is as simple as just shouting your opinion at somebody. And consumer culture has, in many ways, taught us that this is the case. If we want to tell the world how we feel about a company or their product, we just post online. But constructive feedback is more of a skill than many people understand, and it takes time to develop.
Helpful feedback is both timely and thoughtful. It doesn’t seek to blame or shame, but rather to improve the product or business. The goal is always to help everyone in the team reach their potential and requires a degree of empathy, understanding and product knowledge.
Feedback Is Motivating
Without feedback, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. People become complacent in their work, assuming that it’s “good enough” when they go for weeks at a time without comment from the outside world.
But for businesses in a dynamic and changing world, this is a dangerous situation. Simplesat, a data management company, says that companies need to focus on feedback to understand what their customers want. The modern economy is littered with examples of companies that failed to do this and suffered the consequences as a result. Even some of the most successful companies in the world, like McDonald’s, are having to continually refine and change what they do to keep pace with consumer preferences, and that change can often be uncomfortable.
Feedback Unlocks Innovation
Another reason for trying to gather as much feedback as you can has to do with innovation. Innovation is the process of finding new and better ways of doing things. Those in business often fail to provide customers with solutions they want because they are trying to address the wrong problems. Your audience will always be keen to tell you what they’d like to get out of your service and can provide the impetus for you to create better solutions.
There are dozens of examples of this in the business world. Facebook, for instance, reacted to user demands for privacy by including extra security options. Apple made sure that its devices were unhackable, ensuring the private data remained private. And Dyson responded by getting rid of annoying cords on their vacuums.
Having this kind of feedback will help organise your business around solving the right problems. What’s more, gathering the information is usually free, or very cheap.
Feedback Prevents Discouragement
Feedback is a great tool, no matter whether you’re intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. For people who are intrinsically motivated, feedback helps to adjust goals and perhaps make them even more valuable. Often, being able to serve customers better provides businesses with more purpose, motivating them to improve their products. The importance of feedback for extrinsically motivated people is obvious but still valuable. Feedback provides the motivation for better work and can be rewarding in its own way.
Feedback Improves Customer Happiness
Receiving feedback isn’t always a pleasant experience, but giving it can help improve customer happiness. Why? Because it provides them with a chance to tell you how they feel about your product, and what you can do to improve. Your customers usually want you to succeed, because if you do well, they ultimately benefit. Feedback provides companies with an opportunity to look at their situation differently and adjust, perhaps providing them with new and exciting ways to earn more money. It can make work more interesting and generate more satisfaction. It can also lead to greater humility: feedback often reveals our ignorance and the limits of our intellect.