Of course we know feedback in human and product performance is important, but this study from K. Anders Ericsson is still interesting. He spent 25 years interviewing and analyzing high-flying professionals and is the coeditor of the recent 918-page book Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance.
You have to seek out situations where you get feedback. It’s a myth that you get better when you just do the things you enjoy.
Here’s a typical example: Medical diagnosticians see a patient once or twice, make an assessment in an effort to solve a particularly difficult case, and then they move on. They may never see him or her again. I recently interviewed a highly successful diagnostician who works very differently. He spends a lot of his own time checking up on his patients, taking extensive notes on what he’s thinking at the time of diagnosis, and checking back to see how accurate he is. This extra step he created gives him a significant advantage compared with his peers. It lets him better understand how and when he’s improving.
Interesting. Feedback is also a requirement for the creation of flow experiences (see Csikszentmihalyi), and a prominent requirement for UI design. Coincidence? I think not. Feedback helps to keep our attention focused on whatever we’re doing, and provides us with a way to judge how effective our actions are. In this case, feedback allowed this diagnostician to continually judge how effective his diagnoses were, and adjust his actions accordingly in the future.