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MSLCE Professor Building an App to Give and Get Feedback

Today, we continue our feature where we ask an MSLCE professor three questions about the creative field they work in. Below is a conversation with Gail BergerAssistant Professor of Instruction at Kellogg, McCormick, and the School of Education and Social Policy, about building apps, giving and getting feedback, and becoming an effective team leader.

Can you briefly describe the app you’re developing, and who you think will find it most useful?

The app that I am developing, iEvolve360, is a tool that will help people easily provide and obtain feedback from each other. It is useful for anyone who is looking to grow and improve and can be used in academic and corporate contexts. By making it simple and straightforward to give and request feedback on a regular basis, teams and companies can create a “culture of feedback.” In other words, the stigma and fear often associated with constructive feedback will be removed, and instead people will truly view feedback as an opportunity to grow and develop.

In addition the app will be a tool for people to receive feedback about their strengths so that they can continue to develop their talents and leverage them to propel performance. When feedback is only provided on an annual or semi-annual basis during a formal performance review, people associate feedback with evaluation and assessment. They cannot therefore adopt the mindset needed to embrace the feedback and leverage it for performance improvement. By using the app people will have a tool to readily provide others with feedback on an ongoing basis, and feedback will not need to be associated with compensation, bonuses and promotions.

People are most likely to change when they are motivated to change and when they believe that change is necessary.  Therefore one important feature of the app is that individuals set their own growth goals.  Users can broadcast their goals to their teammates and colleagues so that they can pull relevant feedback from others. They can also update their goals, set new goals, respond to feedback, ask questions, rate their progress, and receive progress ratings from others.

What first made you decide to develop this? What has the process been like?

I have been reflecting upon how to give and receive feedback more effectively for quite some time.  I have engaged in dialogue with others about the topic and ideas and thoughts have been tumbling around in my head.   A few months ago, I was talking about the app with a trusted colleague and friend who said, “Gail, just do it!”  I could still hear her voice that afternoon when I was on the phone with a developer who developed software to be used for delivery of course materials for class role plays and simulations. I was speaking with the developer about an upcoming course of mine because I planned to use his software.  With the words of my colleague still echoing in my head, I shared my feedback app idea with him and he is now my business partner. Providing feedback effectively is an issue that I am passionate about because I believe that people want to grow, develop, and be the best “version” of themselves. As you may have heard, “if you’re not growing your dying”, and I think it is fair to say that most people prefer the former. Often, however, we do not have an accurate understanding of how we are perceived by others. The only way to gain insight into how others perceive us is if we receive feedback from them.

More generally, what advice do you have for people trying to be effective team leaders? What dynamic leads to the best team performance?

One of the keys to being an effective team leader is to build a culture of trust through transparent and candid communication.   The feedback app fuels this behavior and creates a virtuous cycle of communication amongst team members. When team members experience a sense of psychological safety their team will have the potential to reach peak performance.    

Professor Berger teaches  ‘Leading Creative Teams’ for the MSLCE program.

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