Thursday, 5 November 2009

Word of the day

Today's word is feedforward. I have always had mixed feelings about the word feedback, but it is too hard to dispense with it. I used the word feedforward yesterday, and had a strong feeling that I had invented it.

Unfortunately, not true. Google claims to have retrieved 938,000 instances. Feedforward, invented by Marshall Goldsmith in an article on management, already has the trappings of a used word - domain names, Wikipedia entries, and so on. Wikipedia describes the word as meaning "giving a pre-feedback to a person or an organization from which you are expecting a feedback. It usually involves giving a document for review and giving an ex post [after the event] information on that document which you have not already given." And feedback itself is defined as "information about actions returned to the source of the actions."

This is not one of Wikipedia's best definitions. It is curious that two spellings of the word are allowed - FeedForward and Feed-forrward - but not the much simpler runtogether, feedforward. And it is curious that both feedback and informaton are used in a singular form - a feedback, an information.

What does the term actually mean? This is what Goldsmith says: "Instead of rehashing a past that cannot be changed - feedback . . . [we] . . . coined "feedforward" to encourage spending time creating a future." You can watch Marshall explain it all on Youtube. Or you can follow up on the other meanings which have been attributed to feedforward through a Google search, or watch the Dutch progressive rock / melodic metal band, FeedForward.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dadolyem said...

This is a horrible term and shows a misunderstanding of the term 'feedback'. The 'back' part is not in the sense of the opposite of 'forward' (think of the original sense of the term feedback in the context of audio problems). Rather, it is back in the sense of 'returning to the sender'.

In my view it is therefore, like the title of the movie "Pay it forward", a clumsy, confusing and somewhat ugly expression.