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Feedback Loops

The world is full of binaries. Which basically means this or that.

If we're having a bit too much of this, then we probably need a bit more of that.

Stress and rest.

Alone time and together time.

Thinking and doing.

Sweet and salty.

You get the idea.

Harmony lies in the balance of binaries.

In this post I'd like to explore the balance of something that each of us experience every single day.

Feedback loops.

First, a definition.

If you look up feedback loops online, you might get caught up in a world of complex theoretical models about the way systems behave.

Let's keep it simple and specific to the idea of this post:

A feedback loop is the length of time between an action and its intended response.

Feedback loops can be long or short.

If you're reading post, you likely clicked on a link to get here. How long did the page take to load? The length of time between your click and the page loading is a feedback loop.

I'm guessing it was pretty quick. If it wasn't, you might first complain about lag, then you might check your wifi, then unplug your router and blow it a few times for good measure (an old trick from your Nintendo days), then plug it back in.

We're used to feedback loops that are almost instantaneous.

Imagine you hit the accelerator on your car, but it only moved two whole seconds later ... it would mean chaos. Imagine the same thing with your brakes and you have a good idea of what winter driving is like.

Now that we've established what feedback loops are, good luck not seeing them absolutely everywhere. They are everywhere.

Two things you should know about feedback loops:

  1. We are always contributing to a feedback loop.

  2. Short feedback loops are contained inside a long feedback loop.

To end this post, I'd like to explore feedback loops in the context of work.

I have no idea what you do, but I can venture a guess that you—being human—like the feeling of making progress in your work.

If you're being honest, there some days where you feel like you haven't made any progress at all, right?

And also some where you feel the exact opposite?

When viewed through the lens of feedback loops, these days might be easier to understand.

Days full of short feedback loops tend to feel absolutely amazing. It's the day where you have a list, and you spend the day checking off the list.

A day without any short feedback loops, is one where you have a list, and by the end of the day you've only added to it.

Long feedback loops by their very definition give you absolutely nothing in the short-term, and absolutely everything in the long-term.

Anything with compound effects, plays on the idea of long feedback loops.

The next time you find yourself thinking that you're not making any progress in your work, explore the following:

  1. It's likely that you haven't experienced a short feedback loop in a while, so is there one close by?

  2. It's equally likely that you've lost sight of a long feedback loop that your actions are contributing to, can you find it again?

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