Thinking Loops

What was I thinking?

Becoming conscious of the consequences of one’s actions is an important part of the thinking process. Frederic the Great said: “What good is experience if you do not reflect?” We should strive towards being prepared to take a step back and view our thinking from a distance. In a similar way, a manager or leader needs to view the business from a distance.

This will help us to get a bigger picture and to prevent us from being wrapped up in details. But how do you develop skills which help you to reflect, step back and monitor your own thinking?

Becoming self-aware and managing our thinking, rather than reacting and acting is a way to gain a view and perspective that would not have been possible if we have never started to reflect upon our thinking. If you attend a meeting, you are involved in the learning and discussions that takes place. But if you try to consider the actual meeting from above the content and activity, you gain other insights such as ideas regarding how you reacted to opportunities that were presented. Your focus is split like light passing through a prism on different aspects – this gives you insight into different points and views and most importantly your own thinking.

A common problem is speeding and several different solutions have been tested to get people to slow down. A successful approach has been to use dynamic speed displays or driver feedback signs where digital readout announces “Your Speed.” These signs do not tell the driver anything new – there is a speedometer in every car and all you need to do is to glance at the dashboard.  There is no speeding ticket linked to the “Your Speed” signs, yet the signs have proved to be an effective way to get drivers to slow down. The signs have proved to  reduce speed on average by 10 percent and the effect lasts for several kilometres. The “Your Speed” signs are interesting from a thinking perspective and they start a feedback loop. By providing us with information about our actions in real time, more or less, it gives us a chance to change our behaviours.

  • Action, information, reaction.

A deceptively simple way to alter our behaviour.

Feedback Loops

Feedback loops are effective when the information that we receive is presented in a context that is emotionally rich, there also needs to be a consequence linked to the information. In the case with the “Your Speed” signs, the consequences of speeding are clear. Athletes often use feedback loops in their training plans. The tool is also common in self-improvement programs and it is used as a management strategy.

The problem with feedback loops has been that it is difficult to get reliable data and information. Today various methods are used to provide as with data so that we can change our behaviour. In some case, these methods can be of a Big Brother character when a device is designed to track people’s movements and actions. Yet the real power of feedback loops is to learn to use them yourself. A real feedback loop gives us control and connection to the thinking process. They can create opportunities and help to motivate and empower us. We can monitor and control our own behaviours and replace them with better and more suitable strategies and actions.

Greenroad is a device that uses GPS and accelerometers to help drivers detect and correct risky or fuel- inefficient driving habits in real time. Zeo makes a headband that measures brainwaves while you are sleeping and Belkin makes a plug-in device measures the power consumption of appliances. All these devices provide us with data and information that can be used to explore weakness and positive aspects with various aspects of our behaviours. In a similar way, we can make sure that we reflect upon our thinking and use the available information to consider the quality of our thinking process.

Photo: “Composition Abstract” by Danilo Rizzuti

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