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What is a Doom Loop?

A doom loop is a negative belief cycle, where a series of beliefs, actions, and reactions work to reinforce negative beliefs and unwanted behaviors.

Here's how a positive belief cycle works:

  1. You form a belief.
    Example: Dancing is fun!
  2. You act on that belief.
    You dance often and get pretty good at it.
  3. Others see your action and form their own beliefs.
    Others see you're having fun and smile when they see you dance.
  4. You see others' reactions, which reinforces your belief.
    People smile when I dance. Dancing is fun!

Doom loops, on the other hand, begin with a negative belief. Chronically bad meetings are perpetuated by people stuck in one or more bad meeting doom loops.

Let’s say, for example, that you believe meetings are a waste of time.

This belief then informs your actions. If you are like most people, you don’t put extra effort into things you believe to be a waste of time. That would be silly, just throwing good money after bad, as they say. So, if you believe that meetings are a waste of time, you’re unlikely to waste even more time preparing for them in advance. You’ll put as little effort as pos- sible into planning and preparing for meetings.

Bloggers love to quote statistics claiming that leadership teams feel 50% to 80% of the time they spend in meetings is a big, fat waste of time. The leaders of our organizations publicly declare that they believe meetings are a waste of time. Hmm. Can you spot the problem there?

A leader with anti-meeting beliefs works to minimize the time they put into meetings. They do not do extra work to make meetings successful. Then, when everyone else shows up to this leader’s meeting, they find themselves in a meeting that hasn’t been well-planned. The leader demonstrates through their actions that advance preparation isn’t required or expected, so no one else believes they should prepare either. Without a plan for running the meeting or much preparation on anyone’s part, the conversation is listless, goes around in circles, and fails to reach any meaningful outcome. The meeting ends up being a total waste of time, reinforcing the leader’s original belief.

This is known as a Doom Loop.

~ from Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization

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