In my last post, I touched Feedback loops with a focus on balancing loop. This post is focused on how we can leverage reinforcing loops to help us resolve issues or continuously improving current performance and abilities of any organization.
Reinforcing loops can help us in two different ways. The first way is by finding existing positive and negative loops and nurturing the positive while finding ways to stop or turn the negative into balancing loops.
The second way is to find where new positive reinforcing loops can be created to improve different elements or performance of the system continuously.
Existing Reinforcing loops
Finding any type of reinforcing loop is not a complicated task. It just needs a little bit of training to identify at least two elements in a system with one directional flow between them. Once you identify a reinforcing loop it is simple to find out if they are negative or positive.
There is nothing to do with existing positive reinforcing loops. You just need to log them and make sure that you check them periodically to make sure they are still active and positive. If positive reinforcing loop stop working or change to be negative, you can follow the advice that I’ll give for creating new reinforcing loops.
Negative reinforcing loops are more tricky to handle. First and foremost, you need to understand that this loop is part of a bigger system and have an impact on other elements of a system. Before finding a way how to stop negative reinforcing loops make sure you understand the consequences on the system.
Personally, I always to turn the negative loops into balancing loops by introducing a variable to the loop that will change the direction of data flow in a way that it will set the negative reinforcing loop into a balancing loop with a goal that at least neutralizes the negative impact of the current loop. After understanding and seeing the effects of the new balancing loop on the system, I’ll consider if I can delete them.
New Reinforcing Loops
The biggest challenge, that requires experience is introducing new positive reinforcing loops or recovering positive reinforcing loops. The first challenge is to identify interactions in the system that can be part of a new positive reinforcing loop by adding a new variable to the mix. Many times adding new incentives ( there are many ways to do it) can create a new positive reinforcing loop. As a result, the system can experience significant improvement. For example, adding self-management components to existing system tend to create positive loops that bring the system to new peaks.
warning: incentive can also create a negative reinforcing loop and cause severe damage to your system!
Identify positive loops is a tedious process that involves mapping all elements of a system and how they are interacting one with each other. This interactive map will help you to find (based on experience) opportunities for positive loops. After you identify a potential new positive loop it takes time and experiments to find out what is the best element (variable) to add to the system to create a positive reinforcing loop.
Recreating Inforcing Loops
Dealing with positive reinforcing loops that lost their magic is the most challenging task. You always need to remember that you are dealing with a system and a reinforcing loop is a partial view of a system. In reality, the loop is dependent on and influence other elements (and therefore other loops) in the system. Positive reinforcing loops will usually stop working due to a change in one of its dependencies. Sometimes it is a simple task to identify the problem as the cause in first or second layers of dependencies. Sometimes the reason is hiding at a lower level of dependencies, or the cause is a result of several dependencies. One way or another, restoring positive reinforcing loops might be a very complicated task that requires excellent knowledge and familiarity with the system.
Reinforcing loops can be extremely helpful or destructive for any system. Knowing the reinforcing loop in your organization and taking care of the positive loops while weeding the negative ones is a critical task to maintain and improve a system. Being able to identify and create new positive reinforcing loop can exponentially improve your system.