I like, I wish, I wonder

Framework for providing constructive feedback

Every Friday evening, the Pulse team gets together for 30 minutes to step back and debrief. The week is usually filled with a ton of sprints, emergencies and fire drills, so these 30 minutes end up being a crucial break from the craziness. It also strengthens the team’s stability and camaraderie.

Early on, when we were only a few people, it was easy to debrief over a drink or ramen. As the team grew, it was necessary to put more structure to this weekly debrief, so that all team members (especially the quieter employees) get an opportunity to speak up. We stole the “I like, I wish, How to” concept from Stanford’sd.school and tweaked it a bit to call it “I like, I wish, I wonder”.

The concept is simple. The team stands in a circle and discusses the past week, the only restriction being that each person must start his or her statement with “I like…”, “I wish…” or “I wonder…”. It is recommended to keep the statements succinct and to avoid responding till the end of debrief. Lastly, any topic of interest is fair game.

So, here’s an example of a hypothetical Friday debrief:

“I like that we had sushi for lunch yesterday.”
“I wish that we all looked at metrics daily”
“I like that our daily activations are increasing”
“I wish that we kept our bathrooms cleaner”
“I wonder if the sun’s going to come out today”
“I wonder if Apple is going to approve our iOS app anytime soon”

As a founder, I noticed that for every few comments, there was one that highlighted a serious issue we had, or a serious improvement we could make. It allowed employees to let out small tremors frequently as opposed to a bigger earthquake every now and then.

As a fellow employee, I appreciated the open and honest feedback (positive or negative) about my work. It helped that every member of the team took this feedback seriously to constantly improve.

Finally, it allowed us to celebrate small wins that we achieved during the week, which made employees feel regularly appreciated rather than during just big launches.

Applying it to daily communication

This framework can actually be leveraged in daily communication also: whether you’re giving feedback to designers about early mocks or discussing strategy with business development folks or talking to engineers about progress they’ve made.

Here’s an example of an email I sent to our lead designer recently, after seeing some high fidelity mocks:

+ I like the layout of the new xyz feature
+ I really like the animations of going from main page to xyz
- I wish the text size was slightly larger for better readability
- I wish the blue color was less bright
? I wonder how we will get more people to discover xyz
? I wonder how xyz metrics will affect abc

Over the last couple of years, I’ve realized how you communicate your ideas can end up being more important than the idea itself. This simple framework gets team members in the habit of communicating positively, which leads to more productivity and less conflict.

Thanks to Ankit Gupta, Greg Bayer, Lindsay Norman and Tim Jurka for reading drafts of this.