Feedback Loop: Definition, Examples & Quiz
The concept of a feedback loop is an important element of systems management theory. In this lesson, you will learn what a feedback loop is and how it fits into systems management theory. A short quiz will help to reinforce your knowledge.
We also recommend watching Performance Appraisal and 360 Feedback and Organizational Controls: Feedforward, Concurrent & Feedback
A feedback loop in the context of systems theory is the feedback the organization's environment provides it. A feedback loop can be positive or negative.
Application to Systems Theory
Systems theory usually treats an organization as an open system. A system is a set of distinct parts that act together to form a more complex thing. An organization is a set of resources, people, and information that come together to form a complex system. An open system is a system that interacts with its environment.
An organization that is an open system takes resources from the environment, known as inputs, transforms them through a process known as throughputs and sends the transformed resources back into the environment as outputs.
Feedback loops provide information to the organization about the successes or failures of the organization's system. A positive feedback loop means that the organization is functioning well. A negative feedback loop means that there are problems in the system that need to be corrected. Part of a manager's job is to monitor for feedback loops and take appropriate actions to reinforce a positive feedback loop or correct problems that create a negative feedback loop.
Negative Feedback Loop
Let's say you are a manager at a research and development facility for a gaming software company in charge of developing a new action game for the company's game console. Your team finishes the game and begins beta testing with outside gamers. After a week of play, the beta testers complete a survey and undergo a debriefing.
The feedback was not positive. Some consistent complaints include a slow game pace, poor graphics, and complicated gaming control. You take this negative feedback and alter some of the inputs by hiring some new employees specializing in high resolution gaming graphics. You alter the throughputs by having employees simplify the gaming controls and increasing the pacing of the game. You have successfully monitored a negative feedback loop and took appropriate actions to correct the problem identified by the feedback.
Positive Feedback Loop
Let's look at one more example. Let's say you are the vice president of marketing for a beverage company. Nine months ago you retained an outside ad firm to develop and launch an ad campaign for one of the company's new beverages. After two quarters, sales of the product exceed expectations. You decide to renew the ad firm's contract because your in-house research indicates that purchases of the new beverage are positively related to the ad campaign. You have correctly identified a positive feedback loop and took actions to reinforce it.
A feedback loop is a concept found in systems theory. Feedback loops provide information to an organization about system successes and problems. Success result in a positive feedback loop, and problems create a negative feedback loop. By monitoring for feedback loops, a manager can either reinforce the inputs or throughputs that relate to the success, or correct the problem if the feedback is negative.
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