Asking for feedback is an important part in developing an effective way forward for a new idea. Be it an idea for a product or service or a change of strategy and policy, internal and external views assist you in getting outside your bubble.
When focussing on a task it is so easy to become trapped in a bubble of thought. Asking for the views of others is a useful way to break that silo of thought.
Your approach to such consultation is critical, from the mechanisms and timescales you employ to gather views to the feedback you provide back to those you consulted.
The best consultation should be open. Consultees should be sought and asked in a constructive way. The timescales should mesh with the realities of their worlds not just yours. How they feedback their views should be made as simple and straightforward as possible to suit the people whose views you are seeking.
In other words you should plan your consultation as you would any other forming of effective survey.
But there are always bad examples from which we can learn. At the extreme there are cases where consultation is mere lip service and if you don’t think these exist, if you are wondering what is the point there are many examples right now.
How not to consult
As the U.K. government adapts to the changes thrust on it by Covid-19 they continue to change policies, strategies and programmes. And as they do, some of you may have been invited to provide input to their consultations on this.
Yet a growing number of these consultations are very poorly timed. I have seen several examples from different government departments where the consultation was opened on a Friday afternoon with a closing date of Sunday evening. 48 hours to respond over a weekend when a lot of those consultees are trying to balance other life demands if not take a break.
These are difficult times and we can give Gov.uk the benefit of the doubt. Although swift action is required there remains a need to demonstrate that relevant groups have been consulted.
But have they really been consulted? Is the feedback effective? These examples definitely demonstrate bad planning. The cynic might suggest they are designed to be overlooked yet go through the motions.
These cases are not highlighted for cheap political point scoring but because they are an example of how the opportunity to improve the efficiency of decision making could have be increased significantly. Breaking the bubble now might have provided better intelligence which could ensure later decisions were more effective. Through a lack of attention to basic details those opportunities have been squandered and the exercise has wasted resources.
Ultimately what is the point of an exercise which does not deliver the means to improve the end product.
If you don’t want to hear the views of others and don’t want to break the bubble you are in, simply don’t ask. It’s a waste of all parties’ time and resources to merely go through the motions.
But if you want to use feedback to improve your idea development here are some useful tips:
Plan how you will seek views. Use simple methods to ask for feedback which are targeted, focussed and require minimal effort. Direct consultees towards the main issues and highlight key questions where the input and views of others will provide most value.
Ensure timeframes are appropriate. Though the content of your consultation may be important to your consulates don’t assume it is their top priority to respond to you. Don’t ask for input at times when consultees would not normally be available. Therefore plan out when input is needed, consult and inform your consulates in good time and work within realistic timeframes. Having an existing good working relationship with those people you potentially want to consult will pay dividends here.
Be open to the views you receive. To break the bubble we have to be challenged. Challenges are not criticism they provide useful information which can change options and directions for the better.
Accept that some feedback will be negative. Some will be a moan or an axe to grind. Use this opportunity to assess if your chosen idea is the best. Use the negatives to critically assess your positives.
Finally keep your consultees on board. Make sure they know what you have done with the information collated. This needn’t be a weighty time but ensure the substantive issues are addressed and the changes you have made highlighted.
Get the basics right
Consulting and seeking feedback on your ideas are valuable tools for your business but only if it is done well. To ensure it is an opportunity to secure valuable insights and intelligence, plan your consultation effectively. It's not difficult to do, it just needs attention to the basic details.
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