This special example of an exchange is a critical factor for sharing and/or bringing in new information. Its helpfulness lies in the ways it facilitates the effectiveness of any exchange. If we look at the model for [Designing Exchanges], we can see how feedback loops can contribute to powerful exchanges.
- Feedback loops are most effective when they are used in short loops, where information is exchanged in tightly coupled, time-limited loops.
- Feedback loops also work best when they are facilitated in broad bands of exchange to allow for greater clarity as there is space to explain and respond to ambiguity and questions.
- Exchanges can either flow one way or two ways, and the feedback loop is the two-way flow. Feedback sends one or more signals into the system, and gathers information as those signals return. This is the sender-receiver cycle that is taught in Communications 101 classes, but often we forget to engage the second half of the loop. When we gather input for decision making, for instance, we often skip the critical step of letting people know how their input or feedback was used. This broken loop can lead to feelings of being isolated and marginalized.
- Finally, feedback loops, when they are designed well, can be used to amplify the dynamics of an exchange by giving positive responses, encouragement, and other ways of rewarding or amplifying. On the other hand, feedback loops can also be used to damp the dynamics of an exchange by punishment or negative responses.
Feedback loops enable system-wide transformation by feeding data back into the system for it to use to inform next decisions and actions. As the system works toward sustainability, it uses feedback to assess its progress and to adapt to internal and external changes and challenges.
Feedback loops contribute to coherence, adaptability, co-evolution, and learning, at every scale in the system.