How to Take the Feedback

Someone on a startup tech community list that I subscribe to reached out to the community and asked for some input.  I looked at his web site and told him that the way I interpreted his brand name was counter productive to his value proposition.  For example, if you were a lighting company and your brand was “EmbraceDarkness”, that would not be reinforcing your value proposition and would be downright confusing to your prospective customers.  You can call yourself YippeeSkippee if you want, and that doesn’t hurt or help you with respect to reinforcing your value proposition, but don’t call yourself Un-Light.  His response was to the effect of “you should read the brand as ‘One Light’.” [This is a fictitious name to protect the innocent, in case you hadn’t picked up on that.]  As it turned out, other people on the list then shared that they had had the same confused reaction to the brand.

There is a general lesson here about being truly open to feedback, whether it about your brand, logo, web site design, user experience, etc.. After seeing this exchange, Ted Neward (, an active participant in the community, captured the lesson succinctly in his response to the entrepreneur; so I share it below (with his permission) unedited except to redact the actual brand.



Be kind of careful with your responses: one of the worst mistakes I’ve seen people make (whether at startups or at big established firms or even at writer’s workshops) is to ask someone for their feedback, then say, “No, you should see it <in this manner or the way I intended you to see it or…>”, which is very much like your response below about “XXXXX”.

It is VERY tempting to try to correct people’s perceptions about your baby, and it’s that exact defensiveness and protectionist intent that you should squash within yourself. Do NOT tell them what they “should” have seen, or correct them about their “wrong” perceptions–their perceptions are not only theirs (and therefore immune to your intent or desire), but also worth gold to you, if you have the stomach and ego to take them and ingest them honestly. To try and explain them is, in a way, saying that they’re wrong, or clueless, or stupid, or… insert your favorite excuse for why your baby is NOT flawed, here.

 One of the exercises that writing workshops will sometimes go through–and it’s both incredibly painful and incredibly educational–is to workshop a piece for a half-hour or an hour or so, but during the first half (or sometimes the entire time) of the workshop, the author may not speak.  Literally. The author may not answer questions, clarify confusion, explain intent, nothing. The author has to just sit there, and listen as people both praise and tear their work (their “baby”) to shreds. Why? Because the work has to stand on its own merits: the author will not be in every readers’ home, explaining the things that need explanation. The work has to stand on its own.

I STRONGLY urge anyone who asks for feedback from people (volunteers or otherwise) to just sit there, and listen. Don’t explain or respond unless asked a direct question–if your work cannot stand on its own merits, then it cannot stand.

Ted Neward