This is one of my favorite analogies... it came up today so I thought I'd post it... hope you enjoy it!
The cat’s nervous system compels it to respond to every small thing that moves. Trying to catch a mouse, a cat observes the mouse’s actions closely. The cat actively learns from the mouse's behaviors, continually changing its capture strategy in response.
So: The mouse teaches the cat.
Of course, the mouse’s behavior also changes continually, in response to the cat’s shifting tactics.
So: As the mouse teaches the cat, the cat also teaches the mouse.
This can also be thought of as a double feedback loop.
The first feedback loop defines the cat’s catching behaviors. The second feedback loop dominates the first; it conserves the cat itself. (For example: The cat may want to chase the mouse out a window, but its system of self-preservation will prohibit that behavior.)
The mutual learning process is also a double feedback loop: Processing input from the mouse, the cat continually adjusts its capturing behavior, adaptively increasing efficiency and reducing noise in the message (that is, limiting extraneous actions). Conversely, the mouse changes its output based on the cat’s input. As a result, the entire system evolves over time.
This is from W. Ross Ashby. I found it in "Notes on the Role of Leadership and Language in Regenerating Organizations". (There is a link on the right hand side, "The Little Grey Book".)
The 'cat-mouse' analogy is a model of organizational learning behavior. The organization that continually takes customer behaviors and activities into account improves its efficiency over time. By soliciting feedback from people, and closely observing their behaviors, we are able to gain a fuller understanding of their needs. In understanding their needs, we are able to adapt our activities, and this enables us to increase efficiencies even when conditions are changing.
What do you think? Is your company adapting based on feedback? Have you ever given feedback to a company and seen them change as a result?