Grade 11 Students Survey Their Peers

As part of a Marketing class, students in an Aurora, Ontario high school used Feedback Frames to better understand purchasing preferences of other students in their cafeteria.

Even though most high school students have smart phones in their hands (every minute of their waking day, or so it seems), they found the physical voting with tokens to be immediately convenient, fun, easy, and you know who is voting.

Featured at the 2016 Public Consultation Summit

Opportunity knocked this fall. I was invited to demonstrate Feedback Frames at the 6th Annual Summit on Public Consultation and Engagement, the largest conference of its kind in North America.   Held on December 5th and 6th, 2016, in my home town of Toronto, there were over 130 attendees from government, consulting firms, and corporate utilities, paying $1,000 to $2,000 each, to educate themselves on solutions to better understand the opinions of their stakeholders.

I was given prime real estate, set-up next to the conference registration table.  Many of the attendees took the time to try out Feedback Frames, sharing their opinions about topics related to the conference, and subscribing to my email list.  From the results (see photos below, including calculated scores) it was apparent the public consultation sector needs more investment and support.   

Thank you to the Strategy Institute’s Sal De Blasi, Sara Sharmen, and Cameron Hoy, for giving me such an amazing opportunity to introduce Feedback Frames to this sector.

Facilitating Facilitators during Facilitation Week

As part of Facilitation Week 2016, the Toronto Chapter of the  International Association of Facilitators (IAF) hosted an evening learning and sharing session on October 18.

Located in the legendary facilitator offices of  ICA Associates,  the night included multiple presentations and discussions.  I was invited to demonstrate Feedback Frames to the room of facilitation experts.   (Thank you for the opportunity, Jo Nelson and Mara Svenne)

The 15 participants were asked to answer the fun question “What do you do?” but without using the word “facilitation”. They quickly generated about a dozen ideas. I then placed each unique statement in front of its own Feedback Frame and invited everyone to drop tokens to record their level of agreement on each statement.  

The total process was less than 15 minutes. It was a blind vote and just for fun, but the results were actually quite insightful for understanding what’s most common in our sector.

See a sample of results below, in agreement priority order.

Borrow Feedback Frames for your next meeting

I invite any Toronto area facilitators (professional or otherwise) to borrow a set of Feedback Frames any time, no charge.  Use them to quickly recognize and prioritize agreements in your meetings. No bandwagon effect, no group think, no batteries required.

Just email me to coordinate pick-up and drop-off:

More details about borrowing Feedback Frames

Peer Review Stories in a High School Class

On June 6, 2016 Mrs. Davidson invited her grade 12 English class to work in pairs to write one page short stories.  The  stories were laid out in front of Feedback Frames.  Each Feedback Frame had a 5-star rating scale, plus a flag for bad handwriting.

Each story had a unique title but no author names.  Classmates read and secretly rated each other’s stories one by one.  

After about 15 minutes the results were revealed and everyone could see their peer evaluation.  

The top student authors were celebrated with an applause.

After a few students explained how it felt more honest to have secret and anonymous feedback, without the peer pressure.

The Precise Art of Amateur Scotch Tasting

My buddy, Mike Logan, invited a bunch of excellent gentleman and myself (not necessarily a gentleman) over for scotch tasting to celebrate Robert Burns day.  Of course, I offered to provide a system of collaborative taste rating, using Feedback Frames. I made a custom rating scale from “Amazing” to “Yuck” and passed around the frames to do blind voting of our opinions. It was a blast, but by the end I don’t think our results were terribly accurate.  

Thanks to Leemarc Lao for taking fantastic photos.

Samara Knows Democracy

I’ve always been a fan of Samara, a nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy group for citizen engagement and participation. 

For some staff education and a bit of fun, I gave the Samara Toronto office a quick demonstration of Feedback Frames over their lunch.  They were impressed. Maybe they will use the tools in their important citizen engagement activities across Canada.

Thanks Jose Ramon Marti for the invite.


“Feedback Frames” is the Name to Remember

After workshopping dozens of names with friends (especially award winning writer Andy Lee), I finally landed on “Feedback Frames” as the winner.  I choose the name for a bunch of reasons:

  • “Feedback” is a common generic term for seeking input and opinions from people after presenting something.
  • A frame is a good descriptive comparison of the physical look of the apparatus.
  • It’s simple english that makes perfect sense once you see it in action.
  • I decided on plural “Frames” with an “s” to reinforce that they are intended in be used as sets for rating many options, not just multiple choice-voting with one frame.
  • Alliteration (two “F”s) is noticeable and memorable.
  • It avoids loaded terms like “democracy” or “consensus”, which are ingrained principles of the invention’s function, but can turn some (dare I say, corporate) folks off when they hear such hippy words.
  • It’s unique – “Feedback Frames” is basically unheard of, so says Google.
  • was available. Score!

Thanks to everyone who came over and helped me brainstorm and discuss name ideas and early marketing suggestions:  Claudia De Simone, David Han, Steve Davidchuk, Andy Lee, Jill Dalton, Henri-Leon Solomon, Phillip Smith, and Eric Squire.

My First Patent

Talking to my super smart  social enterprise lawyer buddy, Robert Wakulat with Wakulat Dhirani LLP, he suggested I consider a patent to protect my invention. With the help of Heer Law, in a few short weeks I was the proud owner of U.S. provisional patent application number 62/185,797 for a “FEEDBACK COLLECTION SYSTEM AND METHOD”.

20 pages of legalese and black & white numbered figures to prove that I was the first person to ever make a non-electronic apparatus for collecting opinions in a quantitative manner from a group of people and such and such. 

Pretty cool. I guess I’m a real inventor now, just like I said I wanted to be when I was six years old. 

Next I need a slightly more catchy name than “FEEDBACK COLLECTION SYSTEM AND METHOD”.




Government Executives Give’em a Go!

With a bit of luck, I got the chance to parachute in to an Elections Ontario (office of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario) directors’ strategic workshop and provide them with the frames to help prioritize their possible initiatives.  The 9 person group of executives rated over 50 ideas in four different categories, resulting in clear results within a matter of minutes.  I got some great photos taken in an Evergreen Brick Works meeting room.

Thanks Henri-Leon Solomon and Melanie Martin-Griem for the opportunity.

Diceman Family Father’s Day Demo

My family has a tradition of celebrating Father’s Day at the cottage, with grandparents, cousins, aunties, uncles and the rest all in for the celebration.  I took the opportunity to test out my prototype frames and they were a hit.  From 87 year old Nana to my 5 year old son,  everyone gave statements and opinions on the topic of “fathers”, with some insightful results.

Apparently Dad’s don’t always smell good, and being a friend vs. being a dad is a bit controversial.

Prototype #3 x 45

After realizing that pennies were too big to fit 30 per column , I tried a bunch of different token sizes and decided #12 washers worked best. I later found that washers are not reliable in thickness, which can cause serious problems, thus I will be manufacturing tokens to go with the frames.

I also realized I would need to make the prototypes sturdy and low cost, if I was going to demonstrate them at in a real meeting with lots of ideas for voting.  I needed to make a lot of these!

Here is what I came up with…

It was made with some finely sliced black foam sheets, custom cut clear acrylic panes, corrugated plastic rectangles, a paper protector, heavy gauge wire, and lots of doubled sided tape, assembled with care.  The result worked pretty good and did not look too shabby either.

My lovely parents most generously offered to spend many of their retirement hours assembling 45 frames for me, replicating my exact design.  A few weeks later they arrived, and I had my first set of (yet-to-be named) idea rating panel thingies, ready for demonstration.

Prototype #2 “Penny Thought Panel” is Too Big

At this stage I was trying to design the apparatus to work for pennies (USA and Canadian).  I figured pennies have value, like opinions have value, they are standard dimensions, and readily available (although much less so in Canada now that pennies have been taken out of circulation). And I liked the association with the sayings “penny for your thoughts” and “when the penny drops”.

But the reality is that designing for six columns, each wide enough for 30 pennies (which is priority requirement), made the overall frame too big for standard letter size sheet paper dimensions. And besides, coins varied in size around the world.  

It made more sense to design for standard international paper dimensions (i.e. A4 and letter), to be used for the scale, and make custom tokens when 30 vote per column is required. Also a smaller frame would cost less and be easier to transport.

Back to the drawing board.

I was quite happy with the simple hinge-cover mechanism,  which was elegant and allowed the panel to lie flat with the cover in the front or back.

Prototype #1 Works!

I made my first prototypes on October 8, 2014.  They were made of 100% acrylic (just like some sweaters – 80s pop song reference anyone?) with lots of super glue.  I made about six of them them for doing a demo with my extended family at Canadian Thanksgiving – I’ll post that video one day.  Here is a short video of me demonstrating the first prototype in action.

The Concept is Born

After 10 years of accepting that idea rating sheets are the less-than-perfect best tools for large decision-making without computers,  I jumped out of bed with the actually-perfect tool in my mind’s eye.  A few hours later I had these sketches and a paper with pennies concept demonstration to show for it.

The original concept included six transparent columns, removable cover, a built-in stand, and many other features found in the final product.