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One of the first things you encounter when you delve into Systems Thinking is the concept of feedback loops. These loops can be “positive” or “negative”, but I’ve found that this terminology is pretty unhelpful in conversation, as most people naturally take the every-day use of these words and assume that “positive feedback” must be good and “negative feedback” must be bad.  This isn’t what the technical terms mean, so a better vocabulary is “reinforcing feedback loops” and “balancing feedback loops”.

Interestingly even the term “feedback” has caused confusion in some of my interviewees. The engineers amongst them recognise the concept of course – a familiar everyday use of this is “I’m getting feedback on Zoom” where you get a loop of a mic picking up a sound which gets distorted and picked up and amplified again and so on, ending up with screeching Jimi Hendrix style feedback on the audio.  

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