Pieces of Feedback, Pieces of Reviews

Good feedback is hard to find.

This sentiment is one that’s been floating around the judge program — and the professional world — for a while. Just this morning, Riki wrote a great blog post about Flash Feedback, which is basically the idea that we shouldn’t let the fear of reviews being “too short” prevent us from writing one.

I think Flash Feedback is an important and vital concept for the judge program to embrace, and one that I see myself personally advocating for a long time to come. Perfect is the enemy of good, and reviews don’t need to be perfect to be useful — just good enough.

One of the personal reasons Flash Feedback resonates with me is because it’s a very liberating concept. Phrased differently, I feel like I now have permission to write short reviews. This is especially important because, in 2015, I wrote zero reviews that weren’t advancement reviews. I’m not proud of that. And I want to do better in 2016. But a goal without a plan is just a wisp of smoke, and Flash Feedback has helped me transform my hazy ambitions into a clear way forward.

To be clear, the primary reasons for this big zero are entirely personal and under my control. Writing reviews is a habit that needs to be built up with discipline and repetition, and I neither made reviews a focus of my judging career in 2015 nor put in the effort to make it a focus.

That being said, Riki alluded to the “stigma of the ‘too short’ review,” which I’ve definitely felt as well. I have certain notions of what a review from an experienced judge — or even “a review from Bearz” — should look like, and I’m afraid of submitting a review that I feel is beneath these standards.

Or, at least, I was.

I’m extrapolating a little here, since Riki didn’t go into this in his article, but I already give people “Flash Feedback” all the time — and you probably do too. It’s just that I give it to them in person.

Consider the most recent event you worked with another judge. Almost certainly, you gave (and hopefully received) some feedback at some point during the event. Maybe this feedback was given during a formal debrief, but hopefully, it also occurred throughout the day. There are countless opportunities for this. To list a few: After a ruling. After we’ve done the end-of-round procedure together. After you’ve run end-of-round on your own for the first time (or during it). After an appeal. While patrolling the floor. After a deck check. After an investigation. And so on.

These little pieces of feedback add up. If you re-read Riki’s example of a Flash Feedback review, you’ll notice that the review mentions several discussions that Riki had with his review subject during the event. Remember that feedback is a process, and writing a review is actually the last step of it. The discussions and interactions Riki had during the event, short as they may have been, were the bedrock of his review.

Once you’ve talked with your subject, it’s helpful to think of a review as just a written record of these conversations. Yes, reviews are more than that: adding narrative structure is like the glue that holds everything together, and it’s always great if you can somehow extrapolate a big picture idea from smaller interactions. But these are not absolutely necessary for a review.

The idea that underpins Flash Feedback is this: any review is better than no review at all. I find this concept easy to agree with, and I’m excited to carry it with me for the rest of 2016, starting this weekend at Oakland. My plan is to write three Flash Reviews (140 words or less) within a week of the event. I’m excited to put this concept into action!