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Feedback Must Feedforward

Feedback that does not Feedforward into new behaviour, is nothing but cognitive load.

The problem is, that there is a lot of this sort of Feedback or cognitive load.

This despite the fact that human beings are excellent recipients of feedback in their day-to-day lives. Look out for two people talking to each other, constantly responding to each other’s feedback emerging from body language, tone, gaze and so on. Or look out for drivers responding to each other in traffic situations. And so on.

What then is the source of this anomaly?

To my mind, the drawing of distinction between Designed and Organic feedback brings clarity to the anomaly.

We are good at responding to organic feedback, feedback that comes from environment, animals, human beings; unfortunately the reverse is the case for most Feedbacks from Designed Systems.

Designed systems like road signs, annual evaluation of employees, speedometer, and so on.

Most of these Designed Feedbacks are so poor at understanding and accounting for human behaviour, that they simply fail to Feedforward into new behaviour.

And then there are design that stand this scrutiny wonderfully. Case in point. The interactive feedback widget in the Chevrolet Volt.


“It’s designed to give you real-time feedback on your driving style. When the car is happy (i.e. being driven efficiently), the ball is green and in the center of the gauge. Stomp on the accelerator, and it rises to the top, changing color to yellow. Brake too hard (so you’re bypassing the kinetic energy recovery) and it dives to the bottom, again changing color to yellow. The more time you spend in yellow, the fewer miles you’ll go before you have to start burning hydrocarbons”

Unfortunately such feedback systems are far and few.

If your feedback systems are not feeding forward into new behaviour, its time that you start rebuilding it with a Behavioural Sciences perspective.

Picture Source: arstechnica.com

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