When should I invite other people’s input?

At what stage of developing and creating something should you involve others?

Quite often people ask me for feedback and for my involvement. “What do you think of this product?” “Would this service appeal to you?” These high-level questions usually hide several things they might actually want

  • To be told it’s great, well done (praise and an affirmation)
  • To make a sale — “Yes I’ll buy it immediately it’s so great!”
  • To genuinely make some tweaks to improve it, just to get that extra piece and get it over the edge. “Maybe if you change the font on this it will stand out” etc.
  • So, that I act as an advocate for it — “It’s wonderful I’ll tell everybody in my network”
  • And every now and again, because you’ll tell me what you’ll really think about the whole thing

What I usually see is that people have left it far too late to get feedback, input call it what you will. In a desire to create the perfect product, approach etc. they have spent far too long on the small details, trying to cover everything off and missed some obvious flaws.

Recently I was asked to review an app which linked with a psychometric profiling tool. The creator wanted to ‘get some feedback’. Now I am not sure which of the five responses above he actually wanted, however I provided the last one. The concept overall was good, the product looked nice, however there was a complete flaw in one aspect which was being advocated. It reflected only his lens and was, in my view, a misinterpretation of a crucial element of the tool — which actually made the whole app worthless. However, the hours of development he’d done on the small detail all relied on this earlier flawed element. He now had a choice — he could argue and justify why he had done what he had (like I care, I have no skin in the game) or he could acknowledge that this was a flaw and he had wasted many hours and make some changes that would increase the value of his work and his offering at least five-fold.

What I saw was a mistake I see regularly within organisations — a willingness to open up one’s thinking to others too late and therefore a battle then to force something through which could have been much better had others been involved earlier. Most organisations still operate in quite siloed manners and people in other teams are seen as ‘them’ rather than ‘us’, people to be wary of and only deal with when something reaches finality, rather than to share ideas and invite contributions from.

It’s hard to open up your thinking to others and then have flaws and differences exposed — it can leave you feeling stupid and very vulnerable. “Will they think I am dumb?”. It can also mean you are not the hero, taking all the praise for this wonderful creation you’ve made all alone. However, it can also allow space for others to contribute and we know that if others have contributed they are more likely to be more committed to making it work and finding outlets for what you have created. And shared glory is better than an unused product!

I’ll cover asking for feedback in another posting, for now though consider “What am I working on right now that would benefit from others input at an earlier stage?”. If it’s pride and ego that hold you back from inviting their thoughts, maybe you can park that. In my experience people are willing to help those who ask for assistance. Test your thinking and build alliances — how bad can that be?

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