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Taste vs. Quality

I'd like to share something that we often get confused about when seeking feedback on our work.

I was listening to a podcast the other day, where Adam Grant discussed his process for getting feedback on chapters of his books.

His process is simple:

  1. Send the chapter to a few folks that he trusts.

  2. Ask them to rate the work on a scale of 1 to 10—where 10 is great.

  3. Knowing he won't get a 10, he also asks what he could do to improve his score.

I might be missing a few steps but that's essentially it.

He then went on to describe what might happen.

Imagine that he sends a chapter to 10 people and he gets back the following scores:

8, 7, 8, 9, 3, 7, 8, 2, 9, and 8.

Let me pause here for a moment and ask you a question, dear reader.

Let's imagine that you applied this same method to anything that you're looking to get feedback on.

You send your work to 10 people and ask them to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10.

Now let's take it further and imagine that you got back the very same scores that I've shown above.

My question is, where would you focus your attention?

Would you wonder why two of those trusted people scored you a 3/10 and 2/10 respectively?

Would you wonder why two of those trusted people scored you 9/10?

In the podcast, Adam shared something very insightful and I think it's something we often get confused about.

He said, if only a few people have issues with what you've produced—you can interpret "issue" in this case to be a 2/10 or 3/10—then what you have is a problem of taste.

Whereas if several people—imagine five or more out of ten—have issues with what you've produced, then what you have is a problem of quality.

Taste is particular. Quality is general.

Taste may be ignored. Quality must be fixed.

We often get these confused because we don't ask for enough feedback.

Suppose in the example that instead of asking 10 people, we just asked two.

How might we feel about our work if we had just asked the two who scored us a 9/10? What about the two who scored 2/10 or 3/10? Or what if one was 9 and the other was a 2?

Taste is particular.

It can also be quite loud.

Don't be confused.

Stay still and listen for the sound of quality.

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