If you’ve read more than about three sentences I’ve written, you may think that I think “why” is important. You would be correct. If something is wrong, “why” gives the information needed to fix it. If something is right, “why” gives the information needed to do it again.
Which of these is the more useful feedback?
- This ice cream sucks!
- This ice cream sucks! It tastes like the main ingredient is floor sweepings!
If you chose the first, please go away. The second leads me to make a note that brooms are not, in fact, kitchen multitaskers.
- Oh, come on. Joe Shlabotnik was the greatest ball player of all time.
- You’re totally off-base. Clearly, Joe Shlabotnik was the greatest ball player of all time.
The second example with its link to Joe’s bio on Baseball Reference allows us to have a discussion about the relative importance of stats and “intangibles” in defining “greatest”. (In this case, with apologies to Charlie Brown, I’ll take stats as being rather more important. I can’t see any amount of intangibles outweighing a batting average of .004. But that’s a discussion for another day.)
One final note: “why” works for positive feedback too. Maybe you like floor-sweeping ice cream. If I know there’s a market for it, I’ll be much more likely to make it again.