FEEDBACK LOOP: A METHOD FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
A feedback loop is a system in which the output of an action becomes the input for future actions. This is a fancy way to say that improvement comes from working on previous successes/failures. And this is true for every situation, from nature cycles to gamification and business management.
In this article you’ll understand how this system works and how it can be applied to any process that needs improvement.
What is a Feedback Loop?
According to HubSpot author, Caroline Forsey:
“A feedback loop is a process in which the outputs of a system are circled back and used as inputs”
In this system, data is the treasure trove of information to work on, to improve the process. You could say that the process is divided into four steps:
- The first step is when the action is laid out and an input is created.
- During the second phase, the input is stored
- Third step is the phase of the analysis, everything that was stored has to be sought to find out important feedback for future operations and decisions.
- The output is used to make decisions and therefore turned again into the cycle, in the “shape” of input
So let’s say that you are managing a Facebook Page for your company. This is more or less how it should go:
- Create a stream of different posts
- As time goes by, you collect datas on each one of them and on their performances
- You analyze this data to understand which posts raise more engagement
- You use the feedback you collected to shape the new posts which will be published.
And so on and on. That’s why it is called a “loop”.
This is an easy example but the process can be applied in a variety of ways and situations, but we’ll tell more about it down below.
NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOP
Now, the feedback loop can either be positive or negative.
Mh, no it’s not about being optimistic.
A positive feedback loop uses the output to improve the situation and to produce inputs that are even better and produce even better outputs. So basically we’re trying to amplify the effect of a positive outcome.
Let’s see a practical example from one of the many contexts in which feedback loops can be found.
In a forest, some trees lose leaves. These leaves on the ground slowly decompose, releasing nutrients in the underground (biologists please forgive me for being over-simplistic). The trees thrive on this hummus in the ground, growing and producing more leaves, which fall in a bigger amount on the floor, feeding the trees even more. So the more input, the better output and so on. You could see that positive feedbacks help you leveling up faster and faster allowing to move from stage A to stage B.
Negative feedback loop
Negative feedback loop instead aims at maintaining a balance, offsetting the outcomes.
Taking another example from nature: If owls feed with too many rabbits, the population of rabbits will decrease. But this will lead to a shortage of food for owls which cannot thrive and will perish instead. Thus, the rabbit population can rise again, and the cycle will restart.
As you can see in this example, the negative feedback loop offsets the outcome, so that there will be no exceeding situation in both directions. This won’t allow to move from Stage A to Stage B, but instead will help maintain the status quo until a certain extent.
APPLICATION IN GAMIFICATION
As Andrzej Marczewski explain in GamifiedUK, the feedback loop can be applied to gamification as well embedded with the user journey.
He explains: “The loops starts with a call to action. With any luck, the user then takes the desired action. Next, the system provides some form of feedback; a reward, pat on the back, random reward, progress bar update etc. The action / feedback loop continues until a state change is needed in the system. This could be something like a change in difficulty, a power up or some other change that alters the user’s experience. After that the system offers the user some feedback and either goes straight back into the action / feedback loop or it may offer a new call to action first”
As the user keeps responding to the action and gets rewarded, he levels up toward mastery.
APPLICATION IN MARKETING
In marketing, more than in other contexts, it’s fundamental to have good KPIs against which to measure the Return on Investment. Feedbacks can be taken from several actors but above all, customers and employees.
From customers, we take feedback to nurture in particular the positive feedback loop: a customer reviews our product, we take the datas to perfect the service/product, which will lead to more customers and more feedback and so on.
These customer feedback should be withdrawn from different sources: reviews on websites, comments on social media, surveys, complaints to the customer service etc.
It would be advised to collect feedback from employees within our firm too. This will lead to improvement and establish a healthy working environment, which will be more efficient and productive.
Whether you want to use the feedback loop in your business or in your life, listening is the key to success. We might be able to detect and discover flaws by ourselves, but it can be useful to have an external point of view. Gathering this information, analyzing it and implementing it, can make your vision clearer on what doesn’t work in your business, at any of its stages.