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The Future of Feedback


Meaningful information about how people perform and behave, the strengths they demonstrate, and the opportunities they have to improve … it’s the currency of development.

  • The boss who points out how effectively you dealt with a demanding project
  • The colleague who debriefs after a call with a challenging client about how to be more successful in the future
  • The employee who lets you know how you can better support her efforts

It’s all information that can be mined and used by those who are hungry for feedback. But, what used to be a strictly human act is increasingly being delegated (or is it relegated?) to technology.

Technology: Tool or Trap?

Technology-enabled solutions allow us to accomplish a tremendous amount of work remotely, individually, and without ever having to actually talk with other people. For some tasks, it’s a great tool. For others, it can become a total trap.

Each day there are new developments and ways to automate nearly everything… including feedback.  Online survey tools allow you to gather the perspectives of more people in less time while offering anonymity (which some believe drives greater candor).

Then there are tools like Rypple, which offer online interactions designed to ‘amplify what great business leaders have always done’, like coaching recognition and providing ongoing feedback.  The potential is exciting.  The ability to scale this critical leadership function to allow full teams to interact transparently and collaboratively supporting, directing, coaching, and providing feedback to each other online is nothing short of mouth-watering.

But (at the risk of sounding like a Luddite) are we using technology as a crutch? Let’s face it… gathering feedback is challenging. Looking someone in the eye as they share their perspective about your strengths and weaknesses can be unnerving.  Is the solution to handle it electronically? Or, might the solution be to take a deep breath and engage in a human dialogue.

What do you think?  (I can handle the feedback.)

Photo Credit


  1. “Gathering feedback is challenging” is a belief like “There are never enough hours in a day.” It is a fools errand to provide technology tools that add to activity and once again completely skip over the source of the problem attempting to be solved. Then, on top of that, add rewarding activity more than results. “We got all feedback scores in by the deadline but no one feels like they got useful feedback!”
    I am growing weary of the retiring work force who fixed poor performance instead of had the face-to-face with their employees and blame the “feedback” system they refused to use because it was punitive, or did not ask the right questions or made someone cry when they saw their scores or comments. Yes, technology is a crutch and a scapegoat in the area of providing feedback or performance evaluations.
    REQUIRING interpersonal skills and feedback training, even in geographically and time challenged environments can never be a waste of time and resources in today’s business environment. A leader either has this mindset or they don’t. Those that don’t, love the tools that remove personal accountability for the development of their most important resource. Those that do, restore personal accountability for the development of their people and do not believe gathering feedback is challenging, they believe it is imperative and that face-to-face is essential.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Linda. There are so many gems in here! I’m particularly drawn to your line, ‘those who don’t (have the right mindset) love the tools that remove personal accountability for the development of their most important resource.’ You’re so right. You seem to advocate interpersonal skills and feedback training. But the mindset is so ingrained, pervasive and such an easy cop-out… is there more that’s required to shift it?

      PS – When does your next book come out?

  2. I love this. There is such a danger in losing humanity in light of technology. I believe thoughtful conversation, like this, will be vital in keeping technology in its place as a tool to enhance, not a replacement for, human interaction. Thank you for your thoughtful post!

  3. And thank you, Laurie, for this thoughtful post. Finding and sustaining that balance where technology enhances but doesn’t overtake our humanity is indeed the challenge given all of the wonderful tools now at our disposal.


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