The role of feedback in good decision making

Robin Low
3 min readNov 24, 2022

Feedback is an excellent way to help humans improve their performance. Even in the best companies, feedback systems tell people when they are doing well and when they are making mistakes.

For smart phones, there is now tactile feedback when you type on the touch screen to allow you to know that your input has been selected.

When you are not follow the route on the GPS, there will be a warning to inform you how to get back to the original route. When your laptop is low in power, it will warn us and tell us to plug in or shut down. Before any system updates, there will also be warnings that an update is happening or a reset is required.

For public-spirited choice architectures, feedback is important for the public to feel engaged. In cases where public money is spent on large vanity projects, there is often a lot of rationale and information that needs to be shared.

Information and transparency is also important. Having transparency and accountability is important as it prevents corruption. There can be a lot of talk like in China where “corrupt officials” are executed to reduce corruption, but who decides who is corrupted? The party in power?

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Poor incentive system.

If people are allowed to take unnecessary risks and rewarded to cover up their mistakes, and take no accountability to their mistakes, then the system is bad.

Having secrets, restriction access to information and nepotism often creates a bad culture of fear. When some people cannot be faulted because they are set to be promoted every 3 years (or they are related to the boss), then it promotes a culture that is personality-centric — when you support a well connected boss and show your loyalty, your mistakes can be covered up and there will be no blame culture.

In many of these companies with poor incentive system, tend to be opaque, but with these well connected people inside, they tend to gain unfair advantages. However, even with the various advantages, these companies tend not run as well as they should because the leaders are often put on pedestals — and have big ego.

One of the main problems is the lack of feedback. Any feedback through the official channel is often filtered. When you show only the good and create a myth that the company is doing extremely well, the company and the executives can often get blindsided as they lack negative feedback.

Many big companies suffer from this. Companies failed to innovate because they failed to take in feedback.

Kodak

Nokia

Blockbuster

Xerox

Blackberry

Yahoo

Segway…

Feedback plays a much bigger roles in business and our daily lives. Although you may not like some of the feedback you may hear, some of the bad feedback may actually help you improve and innovate.

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Robin Low

Author, Traveler, Innovator. Focuses on Social Impact and Innovation.