As the old adage goes, everyone’s a critic. People can be judgmental. Too often, we let other people’s judgments become a distraction.
But there’s an exception to this wisdom.
When we bounce ideas off of the right people, we spark a group-flow dynamic that propels our performance forward. Our creativity skyrockets and we accomplish more in less time. Our motivation is greater than if we were working on our own.
The difference comes down to delivery: collecting and leveraging feedback the right way.
Feedback and Motivation
Why do other people have such power over our performance, for better and worse? Blame it on human nature. We’ve evolved to lean on each other for survival. That also means we crave approval, acceptance, and validation. It’s simply how we’re wired.
This basic fact of human biology factors into peak-performance neuroscience. The neurochemical cocktail that’s involved in flow is also linked to social bonding. Close interpersonal connections are vital to our health, and they’re vital to achieving flow.
This is where feedback comes into play. More precisely, specific and ongoing feedback from a trusted source.
Flow Research Collective Executive Director and bestselling author Steven Kotler has written 14 books, 11 of them within the same 10-year window. As Kotler sees it, his close working relationship with his longtime editor, Michael Wharton has a lot to do with his tremendous output.
“It's a track record of productivity that a lot of people ask about, and part of the answer is group flow with Michael, which produces much better quality editing and writing,” Kotler says in a new episode of the Flow Radio podcast. “But I think the real truth is that group flow is so addictive that I will go really far out of my way… to make sure the writing is extra crisp, because I want that group flow experience.”
Clear communication is key. If something isn’t working in the text, Kotler trusts that Wharton will tell him so, directly and honestly. On the other hand, if the writing is good, he knows it will be met with genuine delight.
“I often say that my books are essentially written for one person—they're written for Michael,” says Kotler. “If I can crack him up or blow his mind during an editing session, I've won.”
Feedback Buddies and Constructive Communication
Not everyone is so lucky to have a rich, long-standing creative partnership built into their professional routines. But anyone can cultivate, and benefit from, a ‘feedback buddy.’ That’s a colleague, partner, or friend whose opinion is valued and who can provide targeted, constructive criticism on a regular, ongoing basis. Your feedback buddy should be a person whose judgment and support you trust.
After choosing who your feedback buddy will be, the next step is laying out the ground rules for what that feedback should entail and how it should be delivered. Kotler recommends that you consider:
- What type of feedback are you looking for, and what are the gaps you’re hoping to fill?
- What data do you need to collect from your feedback buddy to help shine a light on what you might be missing?
- What information will help you feel more confident in your process?
“Setting up that criteria in advance will help you filter out what you don't want,” Kotler explains. It might not be perfect the first time around, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you have a framework to work from and tweak as you become more skilled at leveraging feedback toward your goals.
Soliciting and leveraging feedback takes practice. It’s a muscle that builds over time, nurturing a mindset of continuous improvement and adaptability that’s essential for both creative and entrepreneurial endeavors. But once the framework is in place, the possibilities are limitless.