Skip to main content

Feeding Feedback Loops

In high school I wanted to be fit so I could be better at basketball. Really I just wanted to dunk. Never happened but it sparked something that would serve me long after my hoop dreams faded. 

Wanting to be fit led me to learning how, which led me to training well, which made me feel good, which made me keep at it. I learned more, trained more, felt better and on and on. Wrapped up in this positive feedback loop, decades later I continue to reap the benefits. A lifelong passion for fitness, where making healthy choices has never been a chore. 

Feedback loops are powerful and are all around us. 

Costco provides quality goods at low prices, this leads to more memberships, which leads to more sales, which gives them more leverage over suppliers, which enables lower prices... 

Feedback loops can also go astray. 

Drinking soda feels good, so you drink more. You gain weight, feeling bad you drink more to feel good again, which leads to more weight....

Cycles are stubborn. Momentum takes hold and you start running downhill, for good or bad. Staying in shape is easier than getting in shape. Never smoking is easier than quitting. 

Negative cycles are easy to fall into. Immediate rewards makes them attractive. Fast food, procrastination, infinite scrolling. All feel good in the moment. The consequences come later.

Positive things require delayed gratification. 

An introvert taking the first step to be more social will feel overwhelming anxiety. With persistence, the anxiety lessens, they gain confidence, leading to more social behaviour, which builds more confidence... 

Every action we take, we're reenforcing some feedback loop. If we're mindful, we can leverage this power to move and easily stay in the direction best for us. 



Popular posts from this blog

The Art of Giving Feedback

Constructive feedback is an awkward affair. You don't want hurt feelings, but recognize the importance of honesty. You've tried the classic "hoping things will get better on its own" and unfortunately it hasn't played out. When giving feedback, here are a few things that I try to keep it mind. Start with empathy. Step into their shoes and understand their story. If you don't know, ask. Be genuinely curious. Feedback is a dynamic affair. Shared communication with a shared goal towards progress. Take the emotion out of it. Focus on the situation, not the person. Focusing on the person adds unnecessary weight to an already emotionally-bloated event.  Be specific. Give clear examples. Vague feedback equals dismissed feedback.  Doing above won't de-awkward things fully, but it will dampen it and increase the chance of better outcomes. 

Bias For Clarity

Bias for action. Gets things done. Go-getter. Traits companies big and small look for. And for good reason, you're being hired to do things! However, action is a secondary step that often overshadows the primary step, direction.   Clear direction is the foundation that enables our actions to takeoff. Without it, we're stuck in the mud.  Striving for clarity is an underrated skill. Having the courage to ask ( seemingly ) obvious questions, and to check in, making sure we're all on the same page. "O bvious " questions are a low risk, high reward way to add value. At worst, you'll add confidence to our actions. At best, you discover a misalignment that saves us from a dead-end.  The more people, the more clear we need to be. The bigger the initiative, the bigger the risk of reaching the finish line, only to realize expectations were off.  Success is always uncertain. But we can be certain about what we want and what everyone's job is. Things that can be clea

Negative Feedback, Positive Lessons

In the battle against plastic bags, a five-cent tax was shown to be much more successful at deterring usage than a five-cent credit for bringing your own bags. Carrots satisfy but sticks sting, and they sting hard. So we default to the less painful choice of avoiding loss. Loss aversion impacts the way we process information. A 2019 study  invited participants to learn through a series of multiple choice questions. Each question only had two options to choose from. Whether guessing correctly or not, they would still learn the right answer.  Despite the identical learning opportunity, participants were much more successful at recalling the answers they guessed correctly than those they got wrong.  "You're right!" feels good. We savour the moment, analyzing every detail.  "You're wrong!" stings. We want to quickly forget, dismiss, and move on.  When we succumb to loss aversion, we miss opportunities to learn. Failure is part of the process. We'll experie