Feedback or Feedforward?

Margaret Heffernan gave a TED Talk titled, Why it’s Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work.  Heffernan points to a study conducted by William Muir on chickens.  A brief summation of the study is Muir segregated two groups of chickens based upon their egg production.  The chickens that produced the most eggs we’re called, “Super Chickens”.  The group of chickens that produced a “regular amount of eggs were labeled as “Average Chickens”.  Muir found that after two generations the “average chickens” continued to lay eggs. The “super chickens” pecked each other to death and by the end of the study there were only three that remained.  

Heffernan also points to a study that was done at MIT regarding teamwork. The MIT researchers found that the groups that achieved the highest level were not the groups that had the highest aggregate IQ or had the smartest number of people.Researchers found three characteristics that they used to classify why the group was successful.  Successful groups had high degrees of social sensitivity, or empathy for each group member. Secondly, the groups that were successful gave equal time to each group member.  No one person dominated and no one person sat back and waited to be told what to do. Finally the groups that were successful had more women. The role that  women played in the groups has to be studied further and ws not examined in Heffernan’s talk.  

As team members we need to be mindful of the two studies that Heffernan referred to.  We need to make sure that one voice is not more dominant than the voices of the other members.  This could lead to the pecking death of other team members. We also need to make sure that we are empathetic towards each team member. There might be some things that I don’t understand right now, hopefully my team members would be kind enough to help me along the way without destroying my confidence. 

Sheila Heen points out in her Ted Talk from 2015, that feedback conversations are normally dreaded. The receiver of the feedback is the one in charge of feedback.  Why?  Because they’re the ones who determine what they are going to take in. Heen points out that many times people give horrible feedback, because they don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. But people who want to be better understand the importance of real feedback. This should be integrated with the growth mindset that is presented by Carol Dweck. People with a growth mindset accept challenges, and they gain new abilities through practice. The growth mindset will cause you to applaud trying and working hard.  People who have the growth mindset realize that failing is a part of learning. Listening to constructive criticism is very important for those with the growth mindset.

One of the takeaways that we need to remember is that, “bringing out the best in others brings out the best in us.”  We need to make sure that we give equal time to each team member so that everyone feels valued. The fact of the matter is everybody does have value.  They may have picked up on something in the readings, lectures, or videos that was missed by the other team members. If we don’t see each team member as bringing something to the table, we might peck them to death.  Usually higher education is seen as a driver of competition.  In this case we need to realize that our classmates are here to provide us feedforward that will propel us into being successful. 

See more about the Growth Mindset here. 


Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Ballantine Books.

Dweck, C. (2020, December 02). Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ (Opinion). Retrieved from

Margaret Heffernan: Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work. (2015, June 16). Retrieved from

Super Chicken. (2013, April 26). Retrieved from

TEDxTalks. (2015, June 22). How to use others’ feedback to learn and grow | Sheila Heen | TEDxAmoskeagMillyardWomen. Retrieved from

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