Don’t ask. Observe.
How do you – personally – answer a survey? How does the same you interpret the results of one you gave?
How are we doing? What did you like? What do you hate? How can we improve?
Feedback isn’t strategy. Feedback is noise that needs to be de-biased and organized, and not all of if it even can be. It’s not that we never want to ask for it, just that we have to remember it’s messy and not necessarily helpful.
What is strategic is observing what people actually do. We want to put our attention on the patterns included in the outcomes we want to see more of. Here are a few pattern-seeking questions to observe with:
What do people never ask questions about?
What things make them freak out when they’re not working?
When’s the last time you heard a true expression of gratitude from someone and what caused it?
These observations can all be put to strategic use. We might highlight the reliability of a feature, put more attention into making sure another never goes down, or figure out how to engineer more frequent occurrences of a magic moment.
Don’t just ask, make sure to observe. Observe closely and at 40,000 feet. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease because we observe it’s squeaking, not because it asked us for oil.