Create a positive feedback loop

In your periodic review of what you’re doing, assess your feedback loops. 1. Are they working 2. Are they positive or negative? Always implement a positive feedback loop. Stressful circumstances tend to destroy feedback loops … both their basic function and any inherent positivity built into them. This is something that should be reversed, especially in stressful circumstances.

Positive feedback loops are necessary to create a basic action, result, reward, stimulus, action… cycle. Is there any difference? A positive feedback loop proactively led creates action, directs action, and ultimately yields both productivity and new opportunity.

This is neither meant to be new-age or convenient business speak. When I think about any project or team or relationship I have ever been a part of, the most healthy/rewarding/successful of those universally occurred when there was a core positive feedback loop.

So what happens when bad things happen? When bad things happen that invade a theater (if you’ll grant me some writer’s license to borrow the military reference) to such a degree as to damage a positive feedback loop, up near the top of the list of things to address is re-establishing a positive feedback loop. I would argue that until it is re-established (which is not to say it is the top priority at all times), you don’t yet have a new winning strategy.

Furthermore, creating expectations about actions, results and rewards forces any plan into smaller, more clear bites. Whereas a grand plan often lacks the structure for this loop – and frequently fails to produce anything – a vague plan with an identifiable positive feedback loop is more likely to create sustainable inertia that can be guided toward a goal.

When a particularly difficult obstacle is encountered along the way, it’s essential to carry forward the positive feedback loop. To put this in simple terms, I’ll use my own physical training for reference. I’m not a “hard trainer.” In fact, when I’m training, the maximum positive gain I’m looking for is simply a more positive and often more social recreational schedule. So this isn’t about climbing mountains or breaking records (although the same rule would apply). I took a few weeks off last winter. A few weeks turned into more like a couple months. Getting back into training really only occurred after I re-established a positive feedback loop. Why? Because the one-off runs alone could not themselves jumpstart me back into training. Why? Because when I had a positive feedback loop firmly in place, I had a schedule, and I did the other things in my life I needed to in order to get good runs in…ok in plain English that means buying a new pair of running shoes and drinking more water. Once I forced myself back into a positive feedback loop, doing the right things became easy again.

(A note on positive versus negative: this post isn’t about cheerleading versus browbeating. When I think about a positive feedback loop, I’m primarily thinking about taking information in about my actions or those of my team, digesting it in light of a positive direction I’m heading, and communicating it back in a way that yields new well-directed actions. People like rewards – and can sustain criticism – but neither work very well if, again, the positive feedback loop is not firmly in place. As long as your team, or you yourself in the case of a personal project, will take feedback within this structure, it shouldn’t matter if the feedback is a high-five or critical. It should be positive, and received positively, either way.)

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