feedback ≠ control

i’m a big fan of apple. my husband likes to say he converted me several years ago away from the terrible pc life i was living, and while my life really wasn’t all that terrible, it sure is a great time to be an apple fan!

so, of course i was thrilled when i saw the cover of the latest issue of fast companya full picture of steve jobs with the caption, “the invincible apple: 10 lessons from the coolest company anywhere.” many of the lessons are great leadership, innovation tips – but lesson #8 really made me think.

lesson #8: turn feedback into inspiration.

steve jobs has often cited this quote from henry ford: “if i’d have asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘a faster horse!'”

this is job’s defense of apple’s reluctance to listen to even its most passionate customers, and the line is a good one to remember the next time you’re considering a new round of focus groups. “the whole approach of the company is that people can’t really envision what they want…they’ll tell you a bunch of stuff they want. then if you build it, it turns out that’s not right. it’s hard to visualize things that don’t exist.”

but jobs doesn’t exactly ignore customers; he uses their ideas as inspiration, not direction; as a means, not an end.

hmm. good words for me as a church leader. i love focus groups. they help shape, confirm, and guide my initial thoughts. but, if it’s my job is to lead by creating vision and direction – what role should i allow feedback to play?

sometimes i think that we allow feedback to control us. we allow the most vocal parents, volunteers, and pastors to make our decisions, instead of turning their feedback into inspiration.

let’s lead, and vision cast, and implement well, and use feedback to inspire us – not control us.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Amy,

    I see a lot of tie-ins with your thoughtful post and conflict resolution. I know for me, given our church & city’s values and culture, these conversations go best for me when I do the following:
    – Make sure I’m tracking with the feedback, even when I “know” I’m tracking. “I see. So you’re saying we shouldn’t have metal spikes sticking out from the walls because they’re dangerous, right?”
    – I think most people with negative feedback are hoping to persuade the listener (these days I relish when someone just wants to be heard! -that- I can do!). So long as it isn’t blatantly immoral or hurtful, I almost never say yes or no on the spot to the feedback/request. When I’m doing well, I say something like, “Wow, that’s a great suggestion. I need to think about it.” When I’m not, well, burned is the proverbial bridge.

    Great provocative post! You easily suckered me in with a popular business tie-in!! haha cheers —


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