More Summer Reading: Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops

We’ve come across an interesting new article that has intriguing implications for law firm pro bono.  Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops in the July issue of Wired explores how we can create subtle reminders that encourage us to do better.  The idea of a feedback loop is simple: give people information about their actions in real time, then give them a chance to change those actions, encouraging them to improve their behaviors.

A feedback loop involves four stages:

1.  Behavior must be measured, captured, and stored.  As they say, you can’t change what you don’t measure.  This is the “evidence” stage. 
2.  The information is related – not in raw-data form – but in a context that makes it meaningful.  This is the “relevance” stage. 
3.  The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead – there must be a link to some larger goal or purpose.  This is the “consequence” stage. 
4.  There must be a moment when behavior is recalibrated and a choice is made.  This is the “action” stage.

“Your Speed” signs (aha, the picture makes sense now!) leverage a feedback loop.  They are an effective tool for changing behavior by providing people with real-time information and giving them an opportunity to change.

Action.  Information.  Reaction. This reminds us of the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®.   Signatory Firms perform and record their pro bono work over the course of a year.  They report their results to the Law Firm Pro Bono Project, so we can analyze the data and place it in context.  Our annual Challenge Report provides meaningful information along with a sense of what firms can do with that information to create new pro bono opportunities and improve their performance over the following year.

Feedback loops, like the Challenge, work because they are how we learn.  Trial by error?  A course correction?  In order to succeed we need to have some sense of where we stand and some way to evaluate our progress.

For more information about becoming a Signatory to the Challenge, please contact us at

Do you have any other pro bono-related summer reading recommendations?  We’d love to hear from you.