Sunday, August 13, 2017

Looking at Feedback using System Lens

This is the second blog in the "How to delivery effective feedback" series.  You can read the first blog here

"System thinking begins when first you see the world through the eyes of another- C West Churchman".   

Like any other topic, feedback can’t be understood completely without using system lens. As we all know, System theory has a very simple premise, everything is a system, and system are made out of small system.  So as per system thinkers, what do you believe a feedback can be?    A SYSTEM!!! (Yayyy!! You got it)

System lens provides us a wide-angle view of a situation. It forces us to understand the art and science of inferring a behavior by developing an increasingly deep understanding of underlying structure/surroundings. To get an deeper view of the word systemplease read my previous blog. If you think yourself as a system, you are constantly getting feedback (input) and you are constantly applying those input to produce desired result. Someone again gives you feedback based on those output. This is a loop and hence the origin of word Feedback Loop.

Feedback loop is a system which help us understand a behavior over time. There are two types of feedback loop.
  • Reinforcing Feedback Loop 
  • Balancing Feedback Loop 
Reinforcing Feedback Loop 
A feedback loop occurs when a change in something ultimately comes back to cause a further change in the same thing. If the further change is in the same direction it’s a reinforcing loop.

In other words, Reinforcing loop is where feedback either amplifies/accelerates a behavior or it suppresses/diminishes the behavior. i.e. it caused someone or something to be done more or less. An example of a reinforcing loop is Population Growth. As population goes up, so does births per year. As that goes up, so does future population. The loop goes round and round, growing exponentially until the loop hits its limits. 
Remember reinforcing loop is not good or bad feedback but they are one kind of feedback, which generate change in the same direction.

Balancing Feedback Loop
Balancing feedback loop is equilibrating or goal-seeking structures in systems and is both source of stability and resistance to change. Balancing loops are where feedback supports a system to stabilize and move towards a stable goal. Great example of a balancing loop is a Thermostat. Suppose you set the target temperature to 65 degrees. The higher the target the greater the temperature gap. The greater the gap the more heat that flows into the system. That increases the temperature. As this goes up the temperature gap goes down. It keeps going down until the gap is zero, at which point the system has reached the target

We have just scratched the surface here. Feedback loops are the main reason a system’s behavior is emergent. Please refer to "Thinking in Systems"  by Donella H. Meadows for further read. 

We will try to look at the Interconnectionbetween Feedback's elements in next blog.