Our recent podcast “When Is a Negative a Positive?” is about the productive use of feedback. It argues that, while positive feedback has its place, especially for beginners, it is negative feedback that drives improvement.
This belief is firmly held by Ray Dalio, the founder of the Bridgewater Associates, which has been called (in a fine New Yorker profile by John Cassidy) “the world’s richest and strangest hedge fund.” Bridgewater’s “principles” argue for constant, ruthless feedback, and Dalio attributes Bridgewater’s success to this culture.
Here are some excerpts from an interview with Dalio that, unfortunately, didn’t make it into our podcast:
“Learning about what you’re doing wrong and your mistakes is so much more productive to making improvement because you develop a means for dealing with that — learning about what you’re doing right.”
“Nobody knows what others are doing wrong. It’s a discovery process. So if I think you’re doing something wrong, I convey that to you in a forthright way. You’re an equal partner in that. But the people around us all then are partners in that. And we go through a process of experimenting, because the same things come up over, and over, and over again. So if you’re doing something wrong, it’s going to come up over and over and over again. And pretty soon, when you’re paying attention to it, it then becomes more apparent. So there’s really very little disagreement concerning each person’s strengths and weaknesses. And then of course, everybody sees that converted into productivity, because once they embrace the standing of what they’re doing wrong and have a strategy to not let that stand in their way — to create a compensating mechanism — it’s no longer a barrier to their effectiveness. …
That can happen in one of two ways. Maybe, to some extent, they learn themselves to adapt — they develop skill. Or they change the nature of their responsibilities in a way that plays to their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Maybe they work with somebody who has a compensating strength or weakness. Putting together a group of people who know what their strengths and weaknesses are and create a complementary team so that they can work well together and then also complement each other — (that is) tremendously productive.”