Episode 2 — Feedback

This episode we talk about the feedback that engineers receive about their work. How do you deal with feedback and how should it be interpreted?

  • Steve Wozniak, of Apple Computer fame, is of the opinion that designers are like artists, and they should work alone. Thus, he seems to imply that outside feedback should be ignored. His thoughts on this issue are more fully developed in his book, iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It.
  • Jeff notes that while being a ‘maverick’ designer is exciting, everyone can benefit from outside opinions to help them see things in a new light.
  • It’s far easier to get buy-in from management for out-of-the-box ideas during the conceptual phase, than it is during final product design.
  • Dan Saffer recently posted a humorous presentation titled “How to Lie With Design Thinking.” While talking about web design, he skewers those who promote non-quantifiable aspects of “design thinking” over the hard work of actually doing design.
  • IDEO, founded by designer and entreprenuer David Kelley, is almost synonymous with design thinking.
  • Customers often don’t know what they want. They may cling to the first solution they think of, regardless of implementation issues, and will frequently ignore underlying design problems that are, in fact, causing the purported difficulty.
  • Chris describes using Voice of the Customer to determine a customer’s preferences. A related methodology is Quality Function Deployment (QFD).
  • Noting the linear thinking of customers, Chris references an xkcd comic about a “smart” engineer offering to turn the dial up to “12.”
  • Jeff urges taking feedback with “a grain of salt.” Lots of smart people have differing opinions. Look to friends and family for emotional support, not managers and business colleagues.
  • When things go badly, Jeff proposes that one should take heed of the “45-minute rule.”
  • Chris tells us about what it means to be “Shanghaied.”
  • A lack of feedback may indicate a need to reassess the importance of a project.
  • Delayed feedback is worse than no feedback, as it indicates that opinions have remained hidden until such time as they can only be used as a bludgeoning tool.
  • Chris notes that nobody says, “It’s just engineering,” to justify questionable behavior, although the phase “It’s just business” is frequently used in that manner.
  • Contentious interactions between involved individuals are always a possibility, despite efforts to “iron out” difficulties up front.
  • Jeff mentions the “curse” of the mechanical designer: anyone who’s ever changed a spark plug thinks they can do a better job of designing physical objects.
  • Chris announces a name for our podcast; it will henceforth be called “The Engineering Commons.”

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe to The Engineering Commons so you hear about our latest shows and posts!

Thanks to CathodeRayJunkie for the feedback picture.

3 thoughts on “Episode 2 — Feedback”

  1. Hi guys, Good luck on the new show – I haven’t heard it yet, but I look forward to listening…I tried subscribing via iTunes through the feedburner link, but with no luck – iTunes appears to have made some type of place holder feed, but no episodes are available. I then tried searching for you through the iTunes store, but you weren’t listed – maybe you are still in the processing window? I think Apple takes a couple days before they have new podcasts listed…Anybody else having similar issues?

    1. Thanks Michael!

      Yeah, the iTunes feed is taking a while. If you can push the RSS directly into a podcast feed program, it should just pull from that. If not, you’ll have to wait a bit. Thanks for your patience.


  2. Hi there, I already hear Chris in theamphour.com and now here. Great to listen to Jeff sharing his knowledege and experience.

    The topics of the podcast so far are great for me, I’m particularly interested on design issues because I just started to work on this area a few months ago. So please continue talking about that (teams, roles, methodologies, etc).

    Is good to combine engineers of different branches (electrical and mechanical) to have a wider view on enginnering in general.

    Ok, I will be waiting for the next one. Cheers.

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