Noise /nɔɪz/

A sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of feedback. Specifically when the feedback stops being something constructive, that can enable you to grow, and becomes noise. It becomes something that distracts your from the things that you should be really focusing on and instead it puts you in a constant state of alert and uneasiness. A state that is usually associated with our natural instincts of survival, which in the right dose can be a great thing. In big doses though it can kill you.

When people live and work in a culture that values feedback so much (and rewards the ones that give it and adapt base on it) are in danger of falling in the trap of overdoing it. It’s not uncommon to see people giving “feedback” for the sake of saying something. People shooting down original ideas just because they have to give feedback, in order to get the appraise of their peers. This behaviour is not just dangerous, it can actually be destructive.

Imagine a company where the people are doing only things that they get positive feedback on. Only things that fit within the acquired knowledge and accepted norm. That company will eventually become the Microsoft of the late 90s. A company of zero innovation. A company of incremental releases that are uninspiring. A company that drinks its own cool-aid and becomes detached from the real world.

My thesis here is that sometimes you need to really ignore the negative (or positive) feedback. You need to ignore the people that tell you that you shouldn’t do that thing that it’s obviously, in your eyes, the right thing to do. You should ignore the people that cheer you up, even though you know you didn’t do well. You need to do what your gut tells you to do, but please be prepared to be wrong. Horribly wrong. When that happens accept it, communicate where you were wrong, learn, and move on.

Sometimes there has to be someone with a crazy idea that doesn’t focus on the short term wins. Someone with an idea that looks a bit further in the future. Someone that people will call crazy, egomaniac, disenfranchised. Be that someone. We need more crazy, passionate people.

We were promised flying cars and we got 140 characters.

  • Peter Thiel