Look beyond what you want to hear.

Gathering feedback is an important part of product management. However, beware of confirmation bias: basically, don’t go looking for what you want to hear. Here are a few tips to help avoid falling into this trap.

1. Define clear objectives and hypotheses

Before starting to gather feedback, decide what your objectives are, and form your hypotheses. What are you looking to achieve? Which assumptions are you testing? This will structure the process while also keeping the focus on which elements are the most vital.

2. Look for contradictory comments

While hearing positive feedback that validates your product may be nice, it doesn’t tell you how you can improve. There are often areas that can be better. Go looking for comments that aren’t positive. Encourage users and team members to give feedback that goes against your assumptions. This gives you a more holistic view.

3. Try A/B testing and experiments

Feedback isn’t simply finding out “will this idea work?” You may have an idea with the potential to succeed, but the execution might not resonate with users. Try alternatives to help you determine not just if the idea is sound, but if you can find a better way to do it than your first approach.

4. Use third-party moderators

Be careful not to get so close to an idea that you can’t be objective about the feedback. It’s tempting to gravitate towards the comments that echo your own views and that suggest you are on the right path. To avoid bias in which feedback you listen to the closest, try asking others to take a look over the comments and see if they interpret it any differently.

5. Reassess your assumptions

Product development is an ongoing process. Make sure to reassess your assumptions often. Revisit your initial hypotheses – do they still make sense? What might have been true in the beginning might need adjustment down the road. Be flexible and open to changing your strategy based on new insights.

In summary

Confirmation bias can be a challenging thing to overcome when gathering user feedback. Be sure not to let your preferred outcome cloud what user feedback is actually trying to tell you. Feedback is there to tell you things. Make sure to listen to it.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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