Monday, August 27, 2007

The value of feedback

I must admit in advance that my feedback today came about 15 days too late. When the 7th lunar month swung around 15 days ago, my family noticed that a large number of people in my estate were burning the joss paper on the floor and the grass instead of the usually-provided metal drums that serves as joss paper burners. I should have called the town council as I promised my dad 15 days ago but alas, I hope it is not too late!

We discovered that the phenomenon is due to the fact that after upgrading, the usual ratio of 2 burners to 1 block has now been reduced to something like 1 burner to 3 blocks. As such, many people were met with little choice but to burn as and where they can. [update: a detailed count is needed. I think the problem is one of unequal distribution]

This is seriously bad as I recall that this Chinese New Year, we had to queue up for the miserable 2 or 3 burners in the entire estate and the burners were so filled to the brim that things were spilling out. I guess as people become richer, the things they wish to offer to the gods and to the dead also increases. Naturally, we need more bins.

Today, being the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, is the "peak period" of the hungry ghost festival where chinese people believe the gates of hell are opened and the dead gets to roam the earth for a month. Coinciding with the full month, getai or staged variety shows and traditional chinese opera are performed for the dead as well as banquets, auctions for fundraising, prayers and lots of burning. Although my mom has no idea what is the reason for offerings on the midpoint of the month but there will be yet another offering ritual at the closing of the festival month.

As I was coming to school earlier, I noted that the problem of paper burner shortages has not been solved and 3 freshly burnt patches along the sidewalk was seen. As such, a quick call to the town council had them promising to send people to increase the joss paper supply in my estate! hurray! I hope they will call me back as they promised with update on the status of burner provision soon.

So what is the value of feedback?

Why did I bother recording down such a trivial call of "complaint" to the town council? There are positive feedback and negative feedback. Usually we are familiar with negative feedback, or "complaints". However, we seldom hear of positive feedback or "constructive feedback". Had I called to complain about the users being irresponsible, that would have been rather negative. However, I simply asked for more bins as a constructive solution at possibly, and hopefully, solving the problem.

How does feedback help? Feedback to the right places can mean
1) solving a problem permanently
2) giving support to people fighting for cause
3) express your opinions to decision makers who did not know of such feelings amongst the public before, and
4) propelling change, improvement and progress.

Feedback begins with the littlest things. It could be identifying clogged drains to Otterman's famous example of requesting for speed humps on a road. It is all about getting into the habit of providing constructive feedback. Eventually, when we are in such a habit of offering feedback and comments whenever and wherever needed, we will not even hesitate or procrastinate the phone call or email.

Personally, providing feedback comes as quite a task for me. It is not second nature for me to make feedback. Perhaps you like me feel that having to find that phone number or email address or even composing the email is just too much work, too much hassle. Perhaps you are worried of being a "nuisance" for civil servants.

In answer to that, I must say that feedback can be just a click away via If you are unsure of who to call or where to email, just use the form provided on the website.

Like me, because I know the town council is involved, I go directly to their website! In fact, each town council in Singapore now have their respective and individualized website. It's all very "connected".

And sometimes, feedback does not have to go directly to the agencies involved. There are many non-governmental organizations and even individuals who offer you a chance to express your views! For example, the Sentosa Reclamation EIA or the petition to save the Kranji countryside. If you have no idea what to say or how to express your opinions, you could simply say "I agree" or like a petition, sign your name!

There are so many ways we can express feedback and the only thing stopping us is our inertia. Break your inertia today! It took me 15 days to act on an issue I noticed. How long will it take you?


Sivasothi said...

Yaay, keep it up!

musang said...

Hi, just wanted to say thanks for putting your Chek Jawa slides up on slideshare! I'm currently writing an article on the conservation movement in Singapore, and your slides were a really helpful resource.

Monkey said...

Hi Musang,

Glad it was useful. The slides points are quite scratchy though. Hope nothing erroneous!