Last week, I ran a “lessons learned” exercise using the Wall of Wonder. There were some issues around trust and safety with this group and I did not think the venue of “lessons learned” was the right forum to confront these issues. So, when one of the participants piped in with a suggestion to do the exercise anonymously, I figured it was worth a try.
First off, let me say there is a time and a place for anonymous feedback, especially when you think the results will be skewed one way or another on how one or two key actors will respond. In this case, it probably would have been a good idea to do anonymous feedback, just not with the tool I selected. The tool I selected relied on people owning their comments by reading them out loud and then answering questions posed by the group in order to provide clarification or further refinement. Wall of Wonder is designed to generate a free flow group discussion and analysis of ideas in rapid succession.
By running the exercise anonymously, what I ended up with were a bunch of post-it notes gathered from everyone, reading them out loud and asking people if they wanted to comment on what they thought the author intended. It had a less than satisfactory result; people were trying to guess at the author’s intent and not revealing their own thoughts and feelings. Well…that is not exactly true, it was just very indirect.
So, next time you think you might want to gather anonymous data, don’t use a group exercise like Wall of Wonder. Try things like secret balloting\anonymous dot voting on pre-selected topics or even a Triple Nickels exercise. Just select the right tool for the job at hand.