This article explains the Losada line model, also known as the Positivity ratio in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful effectiveness tool.
What makes different teams function in different ways within an organization? The Chilean psychologist Marcial Losada carried out a study into this phenomenon. As the founder of Meta Learning, he developed an approach to study the functioning of teams. This Losada line model is also known as the positivity ratio and the Gottman ratio.
Criteria Positivity ratio
In his study, Losada distinguished high-performance, medium-performance and low-performance teams, in which he defined performance based on three criteria: profitability, customer satisfaction ratings and 360 degree feedback ratings. Furthermore, the study showed that the degree of performance is connected with the degree of positivity and negativity within the teams.
Positivity ratio: Losada line model
The study resulted in the Losada line (Losada ratio), in which the positivity-negativity ratio is indicated by numbers. The minimum ratio of 2.9 indicates negativity and the upper ratio of approximately 11.6 indicates positivity. The Losada line model therefore makes a selection in the complex dynamics within human interaction. People who have a positive outlook on life, will find themselves on the upper limit and people who have a negative outlook on life, will find themselves on the lower limit.
The Losada line model is calculated according to a non-linear system in which the variables do not have an identical value measurement and weighing scale. Furthermore, the total scores of the different valuables are not added, but the influence that the valuables have on each other is considered. It could happen that the variable ‘happiness’ increases exponentially because of the variable ‘gratitude’. According to Losada human emotions are incredibly powerful and they can build on themselves. This is why it is necessary to calculate positivity and negativity by using a non-linear system.
Losada’s research revealed a number of findings. A balanced team that works closely together and is capable of complex situations, finds itself at the upper line of the Losada line model. These are the so-called ´high performance teams´. These types of teams are strongly internally and externally oriented and they are very creative and flexible. A less well-balanced team which, as a result, is less capable of jointly arriving at solutions, will find itself at the lower side of the Losada line model. These are the so-called low performance teams that are highly internally oriented. In between there are the medium performance teams, that are not (yet) capable to escape the daily routines and they are therefore more internally oriented.
The upper and lower limits of the Losada line model determine the preconditions for the complex dynamics in human interactions. These dynamics can be subdivided into fixed point attractors and chaotic attractors. The chaotic attractors are characteristic of flexibility, innovation and creativity. A team that is predominantly outward focused and which therefore finds itself at the upper limit of the Losada line, will perform much better than internally oriented teams.
Positivity and negativity are strong feedback processes in human behaviour, and these apply to both the individual and the team. Positive feedback motivates a team to continue and look for (joint) solutions. The Losada line is a critical parameter to determine which dynamics are possible within a team. By repeatedly comparing positive feedback with negative feedback, the degree of positivity and negativity become measurable. The more positive a team is, the more willing the team members will be to work together in a solution-oriented manner. Positivity has a motivating influence on all team members as a result of which they are willing and able to perform optimally and encourage one another.
- Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678.
- Losada, M. (2008). Work teams and the Losada line: New results. Positive Psychology News Daily, 9.
- Losada, M. & Heaphy, E. (2004). The role of positivity and connectivity in the performance of business teams: A nonlinear dynamics model. American Behavioral Scientist, 47 (6), pp. 740–765.
- Losadaline Consulting (2012). What is the Losada Line? What is Meta Learning? Interview with Dr. Marcial Losada. Positive Business Forum. Milan, Italy, March 27-28. Retrieved 20/10/2014 from http://www.losadalineconsulting.net/#!losadaline/c5ro.
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