Feedback, Can’t Live Without It

Feedback

Whether you call it feedback or performance measurement, we all need information on how we are doing in order to keep doing better over time.

Wired (July 2011) reports that there are 4 basic stages to feedback:

1. Evidence–“behavior is measured, captured, and stored.”  
2. Relevance–information is conveyed in a way that is “emotionally resonant.”
3. Consequence–we are provided with the results of our (mis)deeds.
4. Action–individuals have the opportunity to”recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act.”
The new action (in step 4) is also subject to measurement and the the feedback loop begins again.
Feedback plays a critical role in helping us achieve our goals; according to psychologist Albert Bandura, if we can identify our goals and measure our progress to them, we greatly increase the likelihood that we will achieve them. 
Thus, feedback is the way that we continually are able to course correct in order hit our targets: if we veer too much to the right, we course correct left; if we veer too much to the left, we course correct right. 
Feedback loops “can help people change bad behavior…[and] can encourage good habits.
From obesity to smoking, carbon emissions to criminal behavior, and energy use to employee performance, if we get feedback as to where we are going wrong and what negative effects it is having on us, we have the opportunity to improve
And the way we generate improvement in people is not by trying to control them–since no one can really be controlled, they just rebel–instead we give them the feedback they need to gain self-control.
These days, feedback is not limited to having that heart-to-heart with somebody, but technology plays a critical role. 
From sensors and monitors that capture and store information, to business intelligence that makes it meaningful in terms of trends, patterns, and graphs, to alerting and notification systems that let you know when some sort of anomaly occurs, we rely on technology to help us control our often chaotic environments. 
While feedback can be scary and painful–no one wants to get a negative reaction, criticized, or even “punished”–in the end, we are better off knowing than not knowing, so we have the opportunity to evaluate the veracity and sincerity of the feedback and reflect on what to do next. 
There are many obstacles to self-improvement including disbelief, obstinance, arrogance, as well as pure unadulterated laziness. All these can get in the way of making necessary changes in our lives; however, feedback has a way of continuing to come back and hit you over the head in life until you pay attention and act accordingly.  
There is no escaping valid feedback.

CPR by iPhone

Great new iPhone App by the San Ramon Fire Department called FireDepartment.
This life-saving iPhone app notifies citizens trained in CPR (that have opted-in) of a cardiac emergency occurring in a public area near them.
An article in Government Technology (May 2011) explains that citizens can “start administering CPR before first responders arrive at the scene.
The problem it addresses is that generally it takes about 7 minutes from a heart attack to death, and it can take about just as long for rescue crews to reach victims.
So, if there are qualified people in the vicinity that can help in the the crucial minutes in between, they can literally save lives.
This is how it works:
1) Emergency dispatchers receive a call for help.
2) They enter “CPR assistance needed” into the dispatch system. 
3) First responders AND local citizens with the CPR app (within 500 feet of the emergency) are alerted.  
4) Location-based technology in the iPhone directs you to not only where the assistance is needed but also to where the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED) can be found. 
“If you’re at Starbucks and next door at the deli someone goes down, you’re getting a notification.”
Currently, the app covers San Ramon County’s 155 miles, but there are plans to make it available as open source code to other jurisdictions across the country as well. 
The app was developed with the help of Fire Chief Richard Price who previously was a software engineer and is bringing a new technology focus to life-saving emergency response. 
There are also iPhone apps that walk you through performing CPR, such as CPR-Choking and CPR Hero.  
Hopefully, we never need these apps, but it’s good to know people and information are there to help just an iPhone app away. 

>You’ve Got An Alert

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You’re all probably familiar with the capability of signing up for alerts to your computer or mobile device (phone, blackberry, pager, PDA, etc.).

By signing up, you can get notifications about severe weather (such as tornados or earthquacks), transportation troubles (such as street closures or metro incidents), utility disruptions (water, telephone, or power), government and school closings, Amber alerts, or breaking news and information on major crisis (such as homeland security or other emergency situations).

Unfortunately, not everyone bothers to sign up for these. Perhaps, they don’t want to bother registering for another site, giving and maintaining their personal contact information, or maybe they just prefer to rely on major news sources like CNN or social networking sites like Twitter for getting the word out.

The problem is that in a real crisis situation where time is of the essence and every minute and second counts—envision that tornado swooping in or that ticking time bomb about to go off—we need to let people know no matter what they are doing—ASAP!

According to GovTech (October 2010), the California Emergency Management Agency is planning to deploy a new system called Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) to “deliver warnings and safety information via text alerts to wireless phones in specified areas without requiring individuals to subscribe to the service.”

A pilot is scheduled to begin in San Diego in the fall.

With CMAS, emergency information can be targeted to an area affected and transmitted to everyone in the receiving area without them having to do anything. Just like your televisions receiving the emerging alerts (which is great if you happen to be watching), now your mobile devices will get them too.

I remember hearing the stories from my father about World War II how the German Luftwaffe (air force) would blitz (i.e. carpet bomb) London and other Ally cities, and the sirens would go off, blaring to give the people the chance to take cover and save their lives.

Well, thank G-d, we don’t often hear any air raid sirens like that anymore, and with CMAS having the potential to someday grow into a full national network of wireless emergency alerts, we may never have to hear sirens like that again.

(Photo: Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory Emergency Management Center; http://communication.howstuffworks.com/how-emergency-notifications-work1.htm)