The key to learning and improving

Roland Grootenboer
Mar 11 · 2 min read

Our whole live we learned and improved by getting feedback. Parents, teachers, trainers, professors and peers told us what went well and what could improve.

When a toddler makes its first steps, parents cheer like it just won an olympic medal. Our first ‘words’ are received with tears and applause. My first drawing seemed to be nothing less than a Picasso. Later on, I learned that putting my chubby finger in our cats eye was wrong. Mom gave me marbles when I didn’t wet my bed. It took a while.

In primary school teachers correct our handwriting and detention helps us to learn ‘good’ behaviour. Swim instructors teach us how not to drown, even with our clothes on. In high school, grades tell us if we’ve studied enough. Driving a car requires hours with an instructor telling us to look in the mirror a million times. At University this continues. If you’ve ever written a thesis, you know what feedback looks like. Never thought so much could be wrong with just one a4.

There is a big red thread through all this improving. It’s feedback. Continuously, from all directions, both positive and negative. With result.

Then we finally make it to one of the things we’ve been prepping for: working life. Putting all those hours of studying, writing papers and doing internships to work. But suddenly there are no teachers or grades. No tears, applause or marbles. Worst case there are half yearly reviews with vage scorecards, filled in by managers who haven’t seen your actual day to day work. They determine your raise percentage and on you go, see you in 6 months.

It’s weird that we put feedback in the center of improving for 20–25 years and suddenly stop doing exactly that. It annoys me that we (including myself) seem to forget that the only way we improve is by giving and receiving feedback.

So tell people how you think they are doing and ask your colleagues for ways to improve. Let’s put feedback first again. It’s the bases for growth. Feedback is the key to improving.

Roland Grootenboer

Written by

People, talent, hiring, startups, culture, feedback.

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