The order of the above ‘leverage points’ is not arbitrary. The sequence is based on the work of systems theorist Donella Meadows. Meadows suggested that there is a hierarchy to these points. The leverage points on the top are relatively easier to implement, but tend to have less impact in the system. Conversely, the farther down the list you go, both the difficulty of intervention and the systemic ‘payoff’ increase in turn.
Let’s look at the list again:
- Dials and Knobs
- Buffers and Stabilizers
- Negative (Self-correcting) Feedback Loops
- Positive (Self-reinforcing) Feedback Loops
- Information Flows
Meadow’s hypothesis is that changing dials and knobs — budget lines, the heading font on office memos, and so — are fairly easy to do, but they have little consequence. On the other hand, if you can influence the paradigms or goals of the system, the impact can be seismic.
Where will you prioritize your efforts?