Leverage the power of feedback loops

Wired is currently running a story about how one California city got speeders to slow down in school zones, all without the consequence of earning a speeding ticket:

In five Garden Grove school zones, they put up what are known as dynamic speed displays, or driver feedback signs: a speed limit posting coupled with a radar sensor attached to a huge digital readout announcing “Your Speed.”

The results fascinated and delighted the city officials. In the vicinity of the schools where the dynamic displays were installed, drivers slowed an average of 14 percent. Not only that, at three schools the average speed dipped below the posted speed limit.

The signs leverage what’s called a feedback loop, a profoundly effective tool for changing behavior. The basic premise is simple. Provide people with information about their actions in real time (or something close to it), then give them an opportunity to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors.

They are in fact powerful tools that can help people change bad behavior patterns, even those that seem intractable. Just as important, they can be used to encourage good habits, turning progress itself into a reward. In other words, feedback loops change human behavior.

This story got us wondering – how can our chapters apply the idea behind feedback loops to improve their chapter’s performance? Here are a few possibilities we came up with:

1. Post the grade for every exam on the wall above your desk.

2. Track the number of hours you spend studying vs. playing video games (or whatever variation suits your work vs. leisure habits). Post the numbers in a place where you’ll see them throughout the day.

3. Tally the number of minutes your chapter spends discussing social events vs. philanthropy planning or LEAD programming and post in a central location in the chapter home. Ask the chapter – what do these numbers say about our chapter’s priorities?

4. For the wellness-inclined, track the progress of your workouts and post them in your kitchen.

Use the comments section below to share some other ways your chapter could employ the idea of a feedback loop.

As the article notes, the more effective feedback loops rely on automated data collection (such as Your Speed signs or other automated sensors). Still, feedback loops present an innovative opportunity to help chapters change negative behaviors and encourage good ones.

The full story is a must-read.

2 thoughts on “Leverage the power of feedback loops

  1. Is there any way you would suggest using a feedback loop for recruitment?

  2. Josh Green says:

    There are several ways in which you can use the “feedback loop” with respect to recruitment. In the same fashion as the other suggestions, make it known to the chapter what individuals are doing for recruitment as well as the chapter as a whole. Below are a couple of ideas.

    1. Post the number of prospective members everyone in the chapter have brought out over the last month
    2. Post the number of other organizations in which members are actively involved
    3. Post the number of names each member has added to the MPL (Master Prospect List) over the last month
    4. Take note of the percentage of time recruitment is discussed compared to the rest of the topics during a chapter meeting. At the end of the meeting, during announcements, give the results of how much time was spent on each topic
    5. Tally the number of activities held related to recruitment throughout the last term and compare that to other areas like the chapter’s social program

    To make sure this feedback is actually know by each chapter member, discuss one item each week during chapter meeting. The intention of the “feedback loop” is to keep an idea at the forefront of people’s minds. For recruitment, you simply need to make sure there is a constant reminder for member’s to take note.

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