Gospel Centered Growth

The Layman's View by Al Renard

Al Renard

Al Renard

Feed Forward

September 9

As an engineer, I work with machines, manipulate designs, and seek repeatability in everything that I do.  Feedback is the name of the game. So, when Karl introduced me to the concept of Feed Forward, I was taken aback for a while, trying to understand this novel concept. Here are some of the thoughts that helped me come to grips with this unique point of view. 

“Feed Forward,” a play on the word, Feedback, conveys a subtle but important nuance.  Feedback implies a mechanical, maintain-the-status, orientation.  Picture setting the heat at 72°F.  When the temperature drops below the limit, the thermostat turns the furnace on until the temperature reaches the set point.  The system maintains a steady state, in other words, the status quo.

Feed Forward starts in a similar way.  That is, it monitors for the set point.  However, in Feed Forward, the monitor also evaluates the result of the cycle against the stated goals.  If the set point is not achieving the goals, the monitor resets the system based on what it has learned from the previous cycle.

Picture driving a car and setting a goal to arrive at your destination safely.  Now, once on the interstate, you set the cruise control.  Going at a steady speed seems like a good thing on dry pavement.  The cruise control, a feedback system oblivious to the road conditions and the goal to arrive safely, keeps the set speed steady.  All of a sudden the rain comes, bringing slick roads and poor visibility.  Now, you need to evaluate the situation and reset you speed so the goal is still achieved.

Here we see a key difference between man and machine.  People can grow and learn and adjust.  Machines are limited to their set parameters.

See how Feed Forward might work in your life.  Take some project that you are working on, whether at home or work, it doesn’t matter.  Think about how you react when the project wavers from its path.  Do you just return to the status quo or seek a stronger faithfulness to the goal that you set out to achieve?

God’s Peace,

Al Renard





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