From would you think to what do you think – avoiding hypothetical feedback

Today I’m sharing a principle of workshop design about how we gather feedback in workshops. But the principle also applies more widely to how we get feedback in design.


The principle is this: ask people to give genuine feedback about what they actually feel about something, rather than what they think they might feel about something.

It is a subtle point. The difference is between saying, how would you feel if I gave you a hundred pounds compare to how you actually feel when you receive a hundred pounds from me.

In a workshop context, you may gather a group of people to give you feedback on possible options. But this feedback in hypothetical. None of the options actually exist, and we can’t fully know how we are going to feel about them. The feedback you get is then unreliable.

Better to say, this is the final outcome – what do you think, rather than what would you say if this is the final outcome.

Application to design

Testing ideas is a crucial part of the design process. Where user testing is possible, the more real the prototype being testing, the more accurate the response.

We see this principle in agile development. We implement small improvements to the product and get actual feedback on a real prototypes in the real environment, rather than speculative feedback on something in a mocked-up environment.

From ‘what would’ to ‘what do’

Whether you are designing a workshop to gather feedback, testing ideas with colleagues, or testing a product with consumers, if you can move from ‘what would you think’ to ‘what do you think’ then you will get feedback that is much closer to reality.

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