Feed forward, not back.

Here’s a fabulous strategy I learnt a few years ago from my NLP trainer.  Feed Forward works best with a group, particularly where there is a tendency to debate, and could also be adapted for one-to-one meetings.  It’s not called “feedback” very deliberately.  Feedback can become a forum for criticism, and can make recipients defensive, and as a result, closed to suggestions.

It’s simple.  One person comes up with a challenge they currently face, and describe it to the group.  Each group member then comes up with a possible solution.  They begin their answer with the words: “If it were me, I would…”  They have to give their answer in the first person.  The recipient of the ideas responds with, “Thank you”.  That’s all.  There is no discussion of the pros and cons of the idea; it is left to the one who has shared their issue to decide what they do with the suggestions.  I’d personally recommend that the group sits in a horseshoe or circle.  Everyone is then equal from the start.

Here are 15 reasons why the Feed Forward format is brilliant:

  • You all get to help someone out: this makes everyone feel good, and you get a variety of different ideas for your own issue.
  • No idea is openly rejected: this promotes respect for everyone.
  • Nobody feels like they’re being lectured, or told what to do, because the idea is phrased in the first person: I.
  • It’s a great time-saver: the group can’t get side-tracked with discussions about whether an idea is good or not.
  • The bigger the group, the more ideas there are, the more choice, the more chance for something innovative to come up.
  • Everyone gets the benefit of ideas for issues they may also have in addition to the one they shared.
  • It encourages active listening: everyone is more likely to listen carefully to each answer because they’re not formulating what they might add.
  • It promotes reflection: for the reasons above.
  • Less confident participants will find it useful: their ideas will be heard, and they won’t need to be afraid of being criticised in front of the group.
  • It’s inclusive: everyone gets to say something.
  • It inspires competition: to come up with a better idea than all the others.  This can only benefit everyone.
  • It stimulates quick, creative thought: if someone comes up with the same idea as you, and speaks first, you have to find a different idea.
  • It diffuses potentially volatile situations, as there is no right of reply.
  • It’s suitable for all ages and all levels, so you can use it in virtually any setting.
  • It’s useful as an exercise to develop skills in turn-taking, communication, brainstorming, restorative practice, difficult conversations.
  • It can be used in a variety of settings: school, workplace, home, committee meetings.

What are you waiting for?  Try it out and let me know how you get on.

With grateful thanks to Michael Beale.

Feed Forward

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