Tag Archives: failure

What to do when anticipating the gift of feedback makes you feel like a failure

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.

For some people, feedback is an extremely valuable gift to be sought after and treasured.

For others, it’s a dreaded piece of torture that reminds them how terrible they are at everything in life.

Feedback is an essential component not only at Sklar Wilton, but also in the larger business world, one that is valued by high performing leadership teams, and one that helps every employee learn and grow and be better at the things they love. Well delivered and well received feedback can promote a positive workplace culture, build stronger relationships among employees, and contribute to growth.

So what is someone to do if anticipating and receiving a gift of feedback feels like torture? Here are a few tips.

feedbackRemember that there is more to your life than your weaknesses. You are also the dad wearing a tutu in the grocery store because your son wanted someone to join him, the mom who shovels the snow from the walkway for your elderly neighbour, the friend picking up mail for a colleague who is away visiting their aging mom in the hospital. You are a multi-faceted person succeeding in over-lapping areas of life from work to school to volunteer activities and leisure time. A weakness or two in one area of your life does not translate to weaknesses in all areas of your life.

Remember that it is impossible for anyone to perform at peak, all day, every day, while carrying around the emotional baggage that all of us do. We all worry about our kids, our aging parents, our health, the bills we need to pay, and so much more. We are not robots programmed with artificial intelligence to input and output based on perfectly programmed algorithms. By design, humans have weaknesses and are not perfect. We get tired, bored, annoyed, over-excited, over-worked, and stressed and that can only impact our work.

Remember that your successes are far greater than your weaknesses, as small or large as you’ve imagined them to be. Your failures might threaten your self-image and your identity. They might take centre stage with giant billboards in your brain. But your successes at work, both large and small, are certainly far more numerous than your weaknesses. Make the effort to remember all the great things you’ve accomplished at work over the last month, year, and decade, and how awesome they really were.

Remember that feedback is someone else’s perception. Sometimes, the feedback will be 100% valid and completely unknown to you. It could give you reason to improve specific behaviours you never realized needed improving, and jump-start you onto an even better future. And sometimes, though the feedback might not reflect your reality, it does reflect the other person’s reality, their perceptions. In such cases, you will need to recognize that someone’s unique experience with you is valid and deserves to be appreciated. In either case, feedback is a gift that will help you adjust your behaviours for the better, whether that means changing the behaviour itself or doing a better job of managing expectations and perceptions related to those behaviours.

When you do find yourself on the receiving end of the gift of feedback, be sure to ask your gift giver for specific, current examples. Examples from the far past or from one-time events probably can’t be acted on now. But examples from ongoing tasks present multiple opportunities for you to learn and implement real change. Be prepared to take full advantage!

Be open to hearing suggestions you’ve already thought of and discarded. If someone who has taken the time to offer you the gift of feedback has specific suggestions, it’s worthwhile to reconsider them. Find out more specifically what they’re referring to and see if they have more specific ideas of how those ideas could work.

Be aware of your words and your body language. Receiving feedback might be difficult for you, but it might also be difficult for the person offering it. Focus on listening and encouraging rather than defending and rejecting. Make sure your body language demonstrates that you are open and positive about the feedback even when you’re struggling to feel good about the words you’re hearing.

Finally, remember that feedback really is a gift. It means that someone cares enough about you to want to help you learn, grow, and become more successful. Accept it with many thanks.

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.


Beyond the poll: responses to the failures of GE2015 #MRSlive @TweetMRS #MRX 

Live blogged at MRS in London. Any errors, bad jokes, or comments in [] are my own.

The power of small data in understanding the unknowable by Cordelia Hay

  • Used mobile Qual to understand voters, they were frustrated and disillusioned with politics
  • Ethnographic approach helped understand what really was happening
  • When so many important political events happen, things like a boy band can make people completely ignore the news
  • People were more concerned with national issues over local issues
  • People mattered much more than policy even though they say only policy matters
  • People really only cared about the economy
  • The winning party had people rallying around one single issue not many different issues
  • Small data provides diagnosis, deep insight into specific audiences, Behavioral insight, vivid, co-creative and ethnographic

Notes from a pollster: how to move forward rom GE2015 by Tom Mludzinski

  • Narrative was driven by polling, race was neck and neck of top two parties
  • Campaign rolling average had them identical
  • Tried looking at difference between online polls and telephone polls
  • 70% of telephone polls had a conservative lead but 56% of online polls had a labour lead
  • We will have a new set of problems five years from now so need a broader more durable solution
  • Using different methods of assigning unknown votes led to different results – squeeze questions, asking who they’d like to see as prime minister, who they related to
  • Start by trying to get a national rep sample of voting population, but we don’t know who will actually vote, and people can’t predict their own behaviours in terms of whether they will vote
  • They considered that past voting was a better predictors of future voting
  • But this time, 12% more than predicted said they do and did vote
  • Older people are much more likely to vote, bottom ten turnout constituencies were labour constituencies 
  • Correlation extremely strong for social grade, higher affluence is higher turnout
  • Maybe turnout was the biggest problem
  • Online is more likely to want to remain in EU, maybe it’s also age and Internet access

Heuristics, hatred, and hair:  forecasting elections the system 1 way by Tom Ewing and Orlando Wood

  • Fame, feeling, and fluency
  • Fame – if it comes readily to mind it must be a good choice
  • FLuecy – if I recognize a brand it must be a good choice
  • Feeling – If I have a feeling about a brand it must be a good choice?
  • Asked people to list out as many political candidates they can think of, ask how they feel about those candidates, and then ask if the candidates has distinctive assets whether personality policy or physical characteristics 
  • Trump is dominant and out in front of Hillary by a hair
  • People named Clinton and trump easily, but Donald trumps hair was more recognizable than other candidates
  • This election will be the lesser of two evils
  • Hillary has much more “happiness” than trump but both trump and Hillary are hated by the electorate
  • Trump has an advantage in fluency, most distinctive appearance, he owns the conversation
  • People know all of his slogans
  • Only #FeelTheBern is ahead of trump
  • Republicans really hate Clinton but democrats love her. Replicants really like trumpt but they are far more frightened up him
  • Hillary is more associated with the trappings of office and does better than Joe Biden 
  • When feeling is taken into account, they think Hillary will win

This is why you’re failing at Big Data #MRX 

By now you’ve heard about the three Vs of big data.  Whether your concern is millions of research panel records, billions of transactional records, or trillions of web tracking records, we all have the same problem.  The volume of data increases exponentially, the variety of data keeps increasing, and the speed, well, let’s think lightspeed. These issues alone make big data a worthy opponent.   

Big data is also rife with missing data. It’s incomplete data, and it’s complicated data. It needs specialized analytical tools and specialized analysts. But those problems are also not the reason we’re failing.  

Why are we failing at big data? Well, let’s take a step back to the survey and focus group world that market researchers love so much.  When I think back to the last survey I wrote, it too was quite the beast. For just twelve minutes of respondent time, I spent many hours dreaming of, writing, tweaking, rewriting, and retweaking every single question and answer.  I pondered every the, or, if, they, you, and why.  I argued with myself about the possible ramifications that every single word might have on my results.  In every case, I settled on the best solution, not the right solution.  In the end, I had a survey that would carefully address every single hypothesis and research objective on my list. This survey was a beauty and the analysis was quick and easy. 

Let’s move forward to our big data project.  You know, the one where someone dumped a giant SQL database with thousands of variables and billions of records on your plate and said, “Make our program better.” You weren’t really sure what the program was, you didn’t know what was currently good or bad about it, and none of the database variables matched up with any project plans or research objectives. Actually, there were no research objectives.  Except for “make better.” I can assure that is NOT a solid research objective.  

Imagine if someone collected together a hundred surveys from a hundred projects and told you to “make better.” I can guarantee you would fail at that survey analysis regardless of how many years of survey analysis you had behind you.  

The simple reason we continue to fail at big data is that we fail to create concrete and specific research plans and objectives as we do for every other research project.  We know very well that a survey project will fail without carefully operationalized objectives but when we work with big data, we ignore this essential step. We don’t plan ahead with specific variables, we don’t list out potential hypotheses, we don’t have a game plan.  “Find something cool” isn’t a game plan. Nor is “how can we improve?”  Big data needs big brains to plan and organize and be specific.    

Do you want to succeed at big data? Then stop treating it like a magical panacea and do the work. Do the hard work.  

Failing Forward by Jeffrey Henning, #AMSRS

Live blogged at #AMSRS 2015 National Conference. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.


  • there is always a tremendous fear of failure, an F on a report card or being called a failure at a business meeting
  • father in law joined an electronics store and sold transistors, started his own business which was successful, wanted to pass business onto his son who refused because his son knew the internet would change everything, so he kept doing things the same way as he always did and his business when bankrupt – he wasn’t willing to risk what he knew worked
  • Bill Gates – success is a lousy teacher, it’s an unreliable guide to the future
  • there are day to day opersonal failures, short term tactical failures, long term strategic failures
  • operational failures – terrible response rates, bad lists, didn’t budget for incentives, twitter sampling leading to spam attacks, skip logic error – testing logic not how people would actually answer the survey 
  • you can prepare a survey checklist of every item that must be checked before a survey goes live [i do this 🙂 ]
  • also consider doing a survey post-partum – what went right or wrong
  • tactical failures – recurring problems – clients couldn’t edit their charts so they had to change the system to accomodate that, though clients may be happy with the end project you might be very unhappy
  • They use a lot of software – excel, hermes, poseidon, fogbugz, questionpro, survey gizmo, decipher, surveymonkey, verint – they have templated checklists for all of these, constantly keep track of things they want to change or improve, learn on what to improve from every project
  • strategic failures – mainly product launches, tried a text analytics product in 1996 way ahead of its time when people didn’t have a lot of text to analyze, last three products failed but led to success of  their last product a survey product
  • He coined the term Enterprise Feedback Management. [how cool is that!]
  • you can’t coast on one success
  • pretend before you spend – pretotyping
  • The Palm Pilot was planned as the inventor carried a block of wood from meeting to meeting pretending to use it as he would use a real product
  • what is the smallest product you can build that will be viable – check out StatWing, very limited SPSS type of product
  • don’t build the pieces of the product – build a skateboard, a bike, and then a car

10 Brands That Failed to Predict the Success of Social Media #MRX

Consumers go online every second of every day to research and evaluate their potential purchases. Brands that do their homework to research and position their product properly can be found easily online. When consumers can’t find a brand online, it could easily equate to a lost sale.

The consequences are equally as bad from the point of view of market research. Let’s assume we’re going to conduct a little social media listening research and we’ve scoured the internet for any opinions about various brands. Below are 30 brands and the results they would achieve with listening research.

Ten Brands That Failed to Predict Social Media: Some brands use words that could mean many different things. An apple isn’t an apple isn’t an apple. Sometimes, if you associate the brand name with a category word, you can be sure of finding the data you were looking for.  Which means when data is collected for research purposes, good quality data can be lost in the cleaning process. These brands know what I’m talking about.

  1.  Apple: I ate some apple pie while I played on my PC.
  2. Target: I wore my new shirt to target practice today.
  3. Gap: There’s a gap between the two buttons on my shirt.
  4. Finish: I am going to finish doing the dishes in ten minutes.
  5. McDonald’s: We went to Uncle McDonald’s for a BBQ.
  6. Corona: We had a beer and watched the corona.
  7. Sharp: The image on my computer is really sharp.
  8. Tide: My pants were dirty from walking in the high tide.
  9. MRS: Mrs. White loves doing research on the internet.
  10. Subway: I ate my turkey sandwich on the subway.
annie katy perry

Me and Katy Perry in a photo that definitely wasn’t Photoshopped but was very likely photoshopped.

Ten Brands Spending Millions on Preserving Their Brand Name: Sometimes, brands choose names that are unique. This is one way to ensure that when people use the word or search for the word online, it can’t possibly mean anything else. In the age of social media, this is what we are striving for. You don’t even have to pair the brand name with a category word to make sure you’re getting the right data. Except these brands lost the coin toss. In every case, these brand names are now synonymous with the category.

  1. Kleenex = any facial tissue
  2. Hula Hoop = any large ring you fling around your waist
  3. Frisbee = any disk you throw at your friend’s head
  4. Aspirin = any mild pain relief pill
  5. Xerox = the act of photocopying something
  6. Google = to search for something on the internet
  7. Scotch tape = any clear sticky tape
  8. Band-aid = any bandage for a wound
  9. Thermos = any container to keep food warm or cold
  10. Photoshop = the act of changing something on a photograph

Ten Brands That Did It Right: These brands couldn’t ask for anything better. When someone writes one of these brands in social media, we know they mean exactly this brand, and no other brand. How do you know you’ve picked a great brand name like these? First, your word processor will underline the word and tell you it’s spelled wrong. Second, when you do a google search, no results will be returned.

  1. Adidas
  2. Chevrolet
  4. Starbucks
  5. Walmart
  6. Nutrasweet
  7. Neutrogena
  8. Fuddruckers
  9. Lysol
  10. Costco

Here’s hoping your brand falls into the third category.

Why branded Facebook pages fail #MRX

skittles facebookskittles facebookduracell facebookgeneral motors facebookAre you jealous?

Who wouldn’t be jealous of like counts and comment counts like these. Sixteen thousand likes for a stupid comment about serving Skittles at red lights. No pictures, no links, no free Skittles. Just a short little comment. But wait, I was one of those people who chuckled at the comment and then clicked on the like button. In fact, Skittles is one of the only 3 or 4 brands that I “like” on Facebook.

It’s this kind of success that every other consumer brand dreams of and tries to figure out. What could they possibly say in a status update that would convince thousands of people play along and click that like button. What exactly is Skittles doing that can be replicated in order to bring hundreds of thousands of consumers into the fold as fans, real fans, engaged, happy, eager fans?

The major problem is this. Brands know they need to be on Facebook which results in status updates that bear no likeness to the brand itself. Sure, it’s great to be patriotic and say Happy Birthday to your country but how does that relate to me, the Duracell fan? And how does Father’s Day really relate to the Generate Motors brand – Dads have cars?

In these two cases, and for many many more brands, the personality and essence of the brands don’t come through the messages. No one has bothered to stop and think about what their Facebook essence is. Birthday messages about celebrities, important dates in history, and recipes for fruit salad might be mildly entertaining but they don’t remind consumers of why they love your brand. They don’t generate likes and comments because people don’t like them and they don’t want to comment on them.

So here are my 6 tips for better Facebook pages.

  1. Know WHAT your brand’s personality is. If you don’t know, then you’re not ready for Facebook.
  2. Know WHY you are on Facebook. (and “to sell more widgets” doesn’t count)
  3. Write messages that embody your brand whether the message is silly or serious.
  4. Get into the mind of your consumer and ask yourself, “Will anyone truly and honestly care if I write this.”
  5. Don’t write messages for the sake of “It’s Tuesday. We always write a message on Tuesday.”
  6. Don’t feel that you must include pictures or links or free offers. People don’t want stuff. They want a feeling.

skittles facebook

The Failure of the Story Paradigm #MRX

People love storytelling. Once upon a time is a great way to learn to be nice to other children, that selfishness isn’t the best way to run your life, that if you kiss a frog you might get a prince. But in the market research space, this paradigm  needs to die a quick death.research story puzzle

Sure, telling a research story is heartwarming and gives you goosebumps. To travel in the day of a life of a single person gives you a more meaningful understanding of a brand. But the Story Telling Paradigm is a gross misdirection. It’s like leading someone through a puzzle with blinders on and only showing them the pretty coloured pieces you want them to see.

Story telling means you find interesting tidbits in your research and piece them together into a cool and memorable story, preferably one that creates goosebumps and makes people want to jump on the bandwagon.

In all honesty, I could take ANY research project and weave together ANY story you want me to tell. Want to prove that people like a particular shoe? I can create that story. Want to prove that people hate that exact same shoe? Well, I can create that story with the exact same dataset. If I only show you the pieces of story that create the story I want to tell, you’d never know it. You’ll have written the business plan, shot the commercial, and be staring at financials that don’t make any sense just a few short months after my emotionally inspiring story landed on your desk.

What storytelling misses are opinions and life experiences from the other seven hundred people whose story didn’t suit the cause. It doesn’t tell you about the interactions with other variables.research puzzle story It doesn’t tell you where there were no differences between people or slight differences between people. It doesn’t tell you about the exceptions or the unusual cases or the seven other stories that were just as important but not nearly as entertaining. A ten slide story presentation absolutely cannot describe research results in sufficient detail to make a quality research decision.

What does story telling do? It gets you just interested enough to want to read the full research report, to see all the missing pieces and understand how everything fits together as whole. So if you’re preparing your story as an introduction to the full research report, more power to you. If not, don’t waste your time doing the research. Just write the story you were planning on telling anyways.

A Do Not Call list for the internet. Primed for failure? #MRX

Info from the English WP http://en.wikipedia.o...

Image via Wikipedia

The Do Not Call list was created to legislate which kinds of companies can call which kinds of telephones for which kinds of purposes in order to help people reduce the number of guilt-inducing, fear-mongering, and pressure-filled sales pitches they receive. And to a large extent, it has worked. Here in Canada, I can tell you almost to the day when my membership on that list has expired as the phone suddenly comes to life. Continue reading →

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