Getting to a Culture of Feedback: A science-based strategy to improve performance at scale

By Camille Z. Inge, Christine B. Chesebrough, Tessa V. West & David Rock

Frequent quality feedback is necessary for employees to remain agile and engaged. But despite best intentions, there is a substantial gap between how much feedback people need and how much they actually receive. Based on what happens in the brain when feedback works, we believe this gap persists because of an underlying assumption in the traditional approach: That we need to focus on giving more feedback. That is, while organizations have been trying to close the gap by getting managers to give more feedback, we may more effectively close the gap by encouraging employees to ask for more feedback. Giving and receiving unsolicited feedback is an inherently threatening experience, due to the high sensitivity of the social brain. Threat makes it difficult for the receiver to efficiently process feedback, and for the giver to share quality feedback. Further, threat makes both parties less likely to willingly engage in the behavior, lowering the quantity of feedback shared. Whereas a focus on giving feedback may continue to face these challenges, a focus on asking for feedback offers cognitive benefits that are more likely to lead to higher quality and quantity feedback. This paper details what the science says about why people should shift from giving to asking, how to ask for feedback, and how to give feedback once you’ve been asked. By encouraging everyone to ask for feedback, rather than encouraging them to give it, organizations should be better equipped to create a culture of feedback.

Become a member to access this paper or log in now.

Register for next members-only briefing on "Maximizing the Brain's Capacity" Thurs, December 13th, 12:30pm EST Register