Home All Work Teams and the Losada Line: New Results

Work Teams and the Losada Line: New Results

written by Marcial Losada 9 December 2008

Dr. Marcial Losada is the founder and executive director of Meta Learning, a consulting organization that specializes in developing high performance teams. He currently consults with executives and their teams at several corporations in the U.S. and around the world. More information here. His articles are here.

Editor’s Note: Today’s article builds on yesterday’s article by Marcial Losada: Want to Flourish? Stay in the Zone.We are honored to feature these two articles on PPND.

In 1999, I studied business teams and the positivity-negativity ratio (P/N), and learned that higher functioning business teams had significantly higher P/N ratios than low performance teams.

An Example with Low-Performing Teams


Miner with Explosives

Recently, I was working with a large global mining company that had four teams classified as low-performance because they had process losses greater than 10%. This leads to languishing (or even extinction) if no intervention is done. Our objective was to bring the four teams at least at the level of the Losada line, which ensures the team reaches complexor dynamics and, consequently, is able to flourish as I illustrated  in 2005 with Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The Losada line has the following set of measures:


  P/N  Expansion Disconnection Gain
Losada line 2.90 48.36 25.04 14.56


We can see that at the Losada line level, the expansion of the emotional field must be at least 48.36% in order to significantly increase the team’s energy for sustainable high performance action.  This means that the team must expand the emotional field by about half as much as the lowest performance teams do. Happy, lasting marriages expand their emotional field by 85%, exactly as the very top business teams do. Marriages that end in divorce only manage to expand their emotional field by a meager 15%, which is not enough to generate a sustainable relationship. Disconnection cannot be more than 25.04%; i.e., in a team of 20 people, no more than 5 could be disconnected from the rest of the team. And the process gain by working as a team instead of individually, should be at least 14.56%.

The very first step is to measure these four critical team interaction characteristics in order to determine the most suitable meta learning program: Positivity/Negativity ratio (P/N), expansion of the emotional field, level of disconnection, and process gain. All measures are expressed in percentages, except for the P/N ratio. In table 1 you can see the pre-intervention measures for the four management teams.

Teams P/N Expansion Disconnection Gain
A 1.25 20.38 38.38 – 14.62
B 1.17    19.50 39.03 – 16.32
C 1.14 19.00 39.27 – 16.88
D 1.04 17.33 40.08 – 18.76

Table 1. Pre-intervention measures of 4 management teams in the mining industry

How to Change Low-Performing Teams

After nine months of intensive training following the nonlinear dynamics requirements of the meta learning model; i.e., its nonlinear differential equations that provide guidance by specifying the relationships among the model’s variables, and integrating cognitive, emotional and physical domains of intervention in accordance with these requirements, the objective was surpassed in all the measures for the four teams, as can be seen in table 2.

Teams P/N Expansion Disconnection Gain
A 3.94 65.67 16.65 31.70
B 3.15 52.50 23.03 18.74
C 3.42 57.00 20.85 23.42
D 3.72 62.00 18.42 28.14

Table 2. Post-intervention measures of 4 management teams in the mining industry

We can see that the total process gain from pre- to post-intervention for team A was 46.32%. For team B it was 35.06%. Team C gained 40.3%. And the total process gain for team D was 46.9% (see spans from bottom red to top blue in Fig. 2).

Losada 2

Fig. 2. Process gains before and after meta learning training for 4 management teams

Mining Equipment

Mining Equipment

On average, the four teams gained 42.15% from pre- to post-intervention. The emotional field was expanded, on average, from 19.05 to 59.29%; the level of disconnection was reduced from an average of 39.19% to 19.71%. This means that for these teams, with an average of 15 members each, the number of people disconnected was reduced by half: from 6 to 3. Finally, the P/N ratio, which was 1.15 on average at the pre-intervention stage, increased to an average of 3.56; in other words, these teams learned to give 2.41 more positive than negative feedback than they did before the intervention.  This was a crucial step to move from low to high performance.

Copper Mine

Copper Mine

It is important to realize that the post-intervention measures are taken from three to six months after the last intervention to make sure that the change introduced by the meta learning program is sustainable, something we guarantee because once a team is able to interact in a complexor dynamics pattern, they will be able to sustain these dynamics over time. Warwick Tucker of the University of Bergen in Norway provided a mathematical proof in 2002 that a complexor will sustain its structure over time.


What Was the Real Effect of this Meta Learning Training?

Beyond these tangible results, an equally compelling narrative is what the CEO of the top management team had to say about the meta learning training:

The team experimented a notable transformation. You untied knots that imprisoned us: today we look at each other differently, we trust each other more, we learned to disagree without being disagreeable. We care not only about our personal success, but also about the success of others. Most importantly, we obtain tangible results. There are a few landmarks in one’s life; this meta learning training was one of them.

The most valuable and enduring lesson these teams learned from the meta learning training was to go from linear management (fixed point dynamics) to nonlinear management (complexor dynamics). One of the keys to switch from one management regime to the other is to keep the P/N ratio within the Losada zone.

Teams that manage to function within the Losada zone incorporate a type of enduring learning that we call meta learning (also described in Want to Flourish? Stay in the Zone), because it represents the ability to dissolve limiting dynamics such as fixed points, and evolve liberating, enriching and lasting dynamics such as complexors. This is why we envision meta learning as a nonlinear process that leads from languishing to sustainable flourishing in relationships and teams.



Fredrickson, B. L. & Losada, M. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678-686.

Losada, M. (1999). The complex dynamics of high performance teams. Mathematical and Computer Modelling, 30(9-10), 179-192. Abstract and order information here.

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), 740-765. Abstract and order information here.

Tong, H. (1990). Non-linear time series: A dynamical system approach. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.

Tucker, W. (2002). A Rigorous ODE Solver and Smale’s 14th Problem. Foundations of Computational Mathematics, 2, 53-117.

Explosives (miner) courtesy of Phillie Casablanca.
mining equipment courtesy of Terinea IT Support,
Kennecott Utah Copper Mine courtesy of Piston9

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Christine Duvivier 9 December 2008 - 2:26 pm

Marcial, Wow– I love your thoughts on non-linear living and education. I’ll read your book. Also, thanks for another great article!

Marcial Losada 9 December 2008 - 4:51 pm


I read your bio and saw your website, and I can see why you are interested in flourishing and education. Thank you,


waynej 10 December 2008 - 2:51 pm

Marcial – how many hours training went into the program? It seems like alot and I’m not sure if my corporate clients (particularly in the current economic times) are prepared to committ lots of time and resources.

Secondly I guess I’m interested in systems thinking. In particluar the concept of a harmonic (resonance). From your experience is there one or 2 thing that might set of this harmonic of positivity?

Marcial Losada 10 December 2008 - 4:00 pm


[[the rest of this answer was lost]]

wayne jencke 10 December 2008 - 5:19 pm

Marcial, thanks for your comprehensive reponse. I’ll have to have a closer look at your work.

I guess I’m still interested if there are some things that are more likely to generate an harmonic. Using the chef example – would the feedback have more impact if you tied in some values.

You might be interested in Heart Rate Variability. You can set up an harmonic in the cardiovascular system (.1HZ) by thinking about something you are grateful for. I can send you the reserach if you are interested. You can go to my website http://www.i-i.com.au to get my email address.

Marie-Josee Salvas 10 December 2008 - 5:59 pm


Thank you for sharing this valuable data. I am a strong believer that businesses would benefit in every possible way (performance, engagement, innovation, turnover, etc) if they addressed their employees as complete human beings rather than as mere workers. Your work points in the same direction and that’s very encouraging.

However, between now and the day that corporations will come to this understanding, we need dollar signs to attract their attention. Were you able to get any statistics on how an increased P/N ratio or a lower disconnection rate influence profits and/or expenses?

Thank you in advance!


Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 2:53 am

You ask the one million dollar question, Marie-Josee.

The answer is not as outright as we would like, because it´s very hard to show a direct link between an intervention and actual return in the field. It can always be attributed to market conditions.

So we have to do controlled research to show such link. That´s what I did at the Ann Arbor and Cambridge labs. I showed unequivocally that a team interaction process is directly linked to performance data (see my 1999 and 2004 papers). I made sure that my performance data would get the attention of CEOs by using three performance criteria: profitability of the SBU team, customer satisfaction and 360 company evaluations. Furthermore, I made sure that my lab asistants were blind to the performance level of the team they were watching and coding at the lab, so that picky researches would not cry foul.

So now we are going to ask the 100 million dollar question, is then the relationship between team interaction process and profits established forever? The answer is: only mathematicians and holy people can play in forever land, the rest of us are all under the rule of the second law of thermodynamics: nothing is forever.


Editor S.M. 11 December 2008 - 2:54 am


Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 3:33 am


I answered all your questions yesterday, but as Senia explained, the spam filter went crazy.

Regarding the chef example. Positivity acts nonlinearly: a little can buy you a lot. Incentives are a form of positivity, but if they are given in a negative environment they lose their power. That´s why we use a viscosity parameter in the meta learning model. If viscosity (often expressed as excess negativity) is high, then you need to raise the P/N ratio.

Many times people ask me: why do you use so many decimal places in your research? What´s the meaning of a ten thousandth in the real world? There are many ten thousands that can make a difference: a genuine smile, a warm embrace, an understanding look.

Regarding your heart variability data. I find it fascinating. Few people are aware of the treasure it hides. The healthy heart is driven by nonlinear control expressed as a ratio of sympathetic to parasympathetic activity that impinges on the sino-atrial node. The heart of premature babies or people who are too old or too sick, switches to linear control. Same as low performance teams (linear control) and high performance teams (nonlinear control).

Margaret 11 December 2008 - 9:34 am

Marcial – thank you for more evidence on the importance of focusing time and attention on team functioning. In my consulting and coaching with executive teams I frequently cite your 3:1 positive to negative ratio. Adding the inquiry/advocacy and other/self ratio when I’m coaching individual execs and teams will be very helpful. Just one question: do you have definition for “expansion of the emotional field”?

Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 10:07 am


Thanks for sharing your experience and citing my findings.

Expansion of the emotional field. First, I call it “field” instead of space, because a field has dynamic forces in it. So the emotional field is a field of dynamic forces. What forces? Forces that open more possibilities for action and sustained effort. An emotional field is created mostly by the P/N ratio. If the ratio is in the Losada zone, the field will be expansive, if it is below or above it will be restrictive. For people in relations to grow and prosper we need first an expansive emotional field; same as a tree needs good soil to flourish and give fruits.

Chronic depressive patients have emotional fields of only 8.33%. The topmost teams that I have trained reach an 83.33% expansion of the emotional field, ten times more. That will give you a feel for the numbers.

Next, an expansive emotional field is not enough to flourish. That’s just the soil. You need the water and the sun. For teams and relationships you need coordination of actions in order to accomplish anything. That’s where connectivity kicks in. Connectivity is emotional field plus coordination of actions. That is why I also use a measure of the level of disconnection in relationships and teams.

I hope this useful,


Kathryn Britton 11 December 2008 - 11:52 am


First, thank you for persisting with comments in the face of our technical difficulties.

One of the job interventions that I’ve used with teams is intentionally increasing positive emotion at work. I’ve used the Losada line and your lovely butterfly picture to explain it (this was a very technical audience). But the question usually comes up: How do we become aware of our P/N ratio? One group talked about assigning a person to keep count … but I don’t think it ever went anywhere.

Wayne Jencke’s Resilience Builder is a biofeedback mechanism where an individual can try things and see a result in heart rate variability changes. Is there a practical way that you’ve used to help a group get similar feedback for their P/N ratio in the course of meetings and other interactions?


Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 12:25 pm


Thanks for help in fixing the problem. Regarding my persistence, I am of Celtic descent and we are famous for trying to beat the Romans, They beat us again and again, but we kept on trying…

When we code P/N nowadays we pay a lot of attention to nonverbal behavior. You know, a face is a world of telling…There is no electronic device that can do that. HRV data is not bad, but incomplete. You need a very well trained human. What we do with teams is to train them in detecting critical telling gestures. This has worked very well for us. You really need to leave the head and connect with your heart, with what you are feeling to cath the critical Ps and Ns.

Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 12:29 pm

Kathryn, it also helps if you use an ipod to do the coding of P/N to keep the count unobstrusevly. I use an app called Versus in mine. It´s simple, but cool.

Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 12:37 pm

Kathryn, I remembered there is a group in Finland that use a cell phone to code all the Meta Learning variables. Then the data is sent automatically to a site for processing and sent back to their cell. They gave me free shares of their company. I´ll let you know if I strike it rich.

waynej 11 December 2008 - 3:28 pm

Marcial, I agree absolutley about emotions being more important than thinking. During my workshops I have people connected to HRV software. Last week I had a partcipant who was excitedly told the workshop that her HRV scores increased when she was stronly disagreeing with something that I was saying (it should decrease). When we explored it a little further it turns out that she enjoys proving people wrong. In this case she confused thinking (h’es wrong) with the underlying emotional tome (“it feels good”)

From another perspective I’d like to know how mindfulness fits into what you do – can you measure contentment or is it only the more obvious positive emotions?

Also there are different ways of measuring HRV – the .1HZ reseeach is relatively new but appears to be very sensitive to changes in emotional state.

Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 3:35 pm

Very interesting what you found, Wayne. Fascinating.

Quite coincidentally i’ve been writing lately about mindfulness and the ML model. There is a Buddhist quality to my model. It must be that I feel close to that way of thinking.

Where can I found more about the .1HZ HRV research?

waynej 11 December 2008 - 3:46 pm

By the way when I said to her “I love people who are cynical – thats how I developed my program by questioning everything” her HRV scores went through the roof. I guess this is what I mean by a harmonic. A compliment that aligns with values is powerful.

I’d like to know more about your work and mindfulness – an article on PPND would be great???????

Go to my website and get my contact details and I will email you some articles.

Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 4:01 pm


Here are some thoughts about mindfulness and the ML model.

Thich Nhat Hanh says that mindfulness is “being fully present in the here and now, being in touch what is going on inside us and around us.” My research says that we are most powerful when we are connected. What is being in touch but being connected? Whenever we let our mind go to memories (past) or expectations (future) we disconnect ourselves from one of the most precious gifts that was given to us: the present (is it a coincidence that this word also means “gift”?).

When we follow rules blindly we also disconnect ourselves from the situation. One of my hobbies is chess. I am not a good player, but I enjoy the games of the grandmasters. One of them was Tarrasch (a German very fond of rules). Another was famous for breaking the rules–Tal. Tal is commenting one of his games and he posts a knight on the edge of the board. Tarrasch said that “knights don’t belong on the edge of the board.” For Tal to violate that rule, he had to pay attention to the context. All good chess players pay attention to the context and not exclusively to what is inside their heads (like rules). Chess is a notoriously nonlinear game; the context is everything and to see it, you need to be mindful.

Finally, the ML model puts a lot of weight on balancing self and other. The Tao says “the sage puts its own person last and yet she is found in the foremost place.” You cannot be fully mindful if you are not connected to your center. And yet being connected to your center requires that what surrounds you be part of that center. That is exactly what it means to balance self and other, one the foremost principles of meta learning.

Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 4:17 pm

Wayne, I got a kick out your example of the negative woman and the harmonic. That was right on target, Wayne. What a good example! I believe this is what good therapists do (and good politicians, too); they are able to make you resonate, because they are experts on striking chords.

wayne jencke 11 December 2008 - 7:49 pm

Marcial, my understanding of mindfulness is awareness of thinking with out judgment. New research suggests that the most powerful aspect of mindfulness is the non judgment(acceptance)aspect. So its useful to be ACCEPTional (deliberately misspelt)

Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 8:18 pm

I agree, Wayne. Judgment gets in the way. Nonjudment stays out of way.

Judgment lets you see only what is already in your mind. Nonjudgment opens the way for other possibilities.

Judgment imprisons. Nonjudgment liberates.

Marcial Losada 11 December 2008 - 9:12 pm

Wayne, I tried your site to get the HRV data but I couldn´t get your e-mail address. Why don.t you click in my name above and e-mail to me. Thanks.

Katherine Peil 12 December 2008 - 3:05 pm

Hi Marcial,
Katherine Peil here. I sent you my paper introducing emotion as a “self-regulatory sense” some time back (and you were one of the few that got it! That was encouraging! Thanks!)
I still haven’t published anything yet but have been investigating the biophysics underlying the feedback dynamics I mentioned, and looking at the role of emotion in spirituality. Great stuff to come!
Good to see you are keeping up your great work.

Marcial Losada 12 December 2008 - 4:52 pm

Hi Katherine Peil. Of course I remember you. You are not a forgettable person. Biophysics underlying the feedback dynamics? Emotion and spirituality? That HAS to be published, Katherin. Please. And send me a copy!

Tapio Kymäläinen 12 December 2008 - 5:35 pm

Hi Marcial and Wayne,

I’m excited to see this conversation connecting HRV and Meta Learning Model. I’m co-founder of Finnish company DialogueLife, which is the one Marcial mentioned above there in posting number 15. How about combining those HRV recordings and Meta Learning model, what could we possibly get out of it?
Also I think you are on the right track with mindfulness. I’d say it is very visible in results, both those aspects that was mentioned above, presence and non judgment. Non judgment comes clearly in the spoken words, but also contentment in the way as Marcial you mention there in posting number 13, it’s visible in nonverbal expressions and gestures, those can in extreme case even make negative words cause positive effect and vise a verse.
I agree with Wayne, really looking forward to see Marcials writing about mindfulness, do you have plans to publish something?

Marcial Losada 12 December 2008 - 5:58 pm

Tapio! What a pleasant surprise! And what a great idea you had about HRV and ML. Why did you connect the two? What went on in your head?

HRV is like the Mona Lisa: a strange attractor. By the way, this is literally so. I did an analysis of the P/N ratio of positive and negative emotions detected in it by Nicu Sebe, from the U. of Amsterdam, and when I transformed the ratio into the control parameter in my model I got a complexor in phase space! Conclusion: Mona Lisa is so attractive (still largest lines at the Louvre) because there is plenty of complex order in it.

I repeat, HRV is like the Mona Lisa plus some bad paintings. Why? Because some of HRV are going to show complex order if we plot in phase space and some are going to show limiting order (mostly fixed points).

Here I thow the ball at you two to continue this exciting game!

Editor K.H.B. 12 December 2008 - 6:06 pm

Wayne, Marcial, and all,

We want to add Mindfulness to the Image maps — perhaps as a branch between Accomplishment and Meaning in this one: https://positivepsychologynews.com/image-maps — but we need somebody with a broad perspective to write the short introductory article for it. What is it? What role does it play in human well-being? What kind of research is going on?

Anyone interested?


Marcial Losada 12 December 2008 - 6:22 pm

This is getting interesting, now we have Kathryn in the game. Great! I took a look at Image maps. those are the ingredients, the elements as they are called there, but in order to cook we need to find out how these ingredients relate to each other. What I mean is this:

When I present my model to audiences, I ask: what do you think is the most important in this model? The majority of people say the ingredients: inquiry-advocacy, P/N, other-self, connectivity. Very few say, “the lines that connect them.” In the case of the ML model those lines represent the nonlinear differential equations that make the model run.

I am not saying we need to find the equations, but at the very least we need to find conceptual relationships between the elements in the Image map that we need to represent graphically. We don’t need t get it right, we need to get it going.

Marcial Losada 12 December 2008 - 6:41 pm

Let me give an initial kick.

I am goint to take just two to start: positive emotions and relationships. Remember Haidt’s Happiness is not within is between? I couldn’t agree more. So there is a strong link between relationships and positive emotions. How is this link? Unidirectional, bidirectional?

I have a formula that says C = E + 1. Connectivity equals Emotional field plus 1. What is this “one”? Is coordination of actions. It’s a binary variable (0: no coordination; 1: coordination). But 1 is too little you might say. Not at all. It is very powerful, because if it is 0, there is no coordination of actions. It’s like the keys for a car. The key is too little compared to the car. But without the key, the car doesn’t start.

Now, mindfulness. How does mindfulness relate to the elements in the image map? First, where is it? Second, what does it do (outputs). Third, what impinges upon it (inputs).

I can contribute some thoughts on mindfulness and the ML model, but I don’t want to play alone.

I’ll leave there, otherwise I am going to have the ball too much time and we are not going to score that way.

Kirsten Cronlund 13 December 2008 - 12:19 am

Hi Marcial,

I am a student of mindfulness. Many mindfulness practices and applications have been around for centuries, and it’s exciting to see how the work you and others are doing can shed light on the how and the why of the mechanisms. I’m so glad this conversation has been sparked about how mindfulness relates to many of the topics of PP. I agree with Wayne about the important role of acceptance as underlying mindfulness – it seems to be the first necessary step in the development of resilience, positive relationships, meaning, and even achievement. I would love to be a part of this ongoing conversation, and perhaps even the development of some articles for PPND.

Best wishes,
Kirsten Cronlund, MAPP ’08

Marcial Losada 13 December 2008 - 6:29 am

Welocome Kirsten. I like your name. Where does it come from?

I agree with the acceptance aspect of mindfulness. I can feel a letting go quality to it. There is so much we need to unload to take off. Deep humility is a bit like that, too.

People often comment on how did I get to know so many diverse things. I could stay there and enjoy the feeling. And believe me, I do that. But I have to unload if I want to go on. Once I saw myself as a child playing with the sand and putting it into a bucket. I realized that sand in the bucket is what I know. The sand in the beach is what I do not know. I felt so much light after that (both in terms of weight and luminosity).

To keep humble I always keep in mind that 95% of the universe is comprised by what we cannot see and don’t know much about it. We call it dark matter and dark energy. I guess we got the color wrong: it should be golden, because there is so much we still have to learn. A golden opportunity.

Tell us how mindfulness affects your life Kirsten.

Kirsten Cronlund 13 December 2008 - 8:21 am

Thanks, Marcial, for your quick response to my posting. My name is Swedish – which is where many of my ancestors came from, although I have never been out of this country. One day I’ll make it over there…

As for mindfulness, I can totally relate to your sand in the bucket analogy. It works on so many different levels. First of all, the absolute acceptance that there is simply way too much information and life experience for any one human being to “own” could be depressing, but in your case you saw it as freeing, maybe exciting? (I don’t want to put words in your mouth.) I have the exact same experience when I view the world – so many possibilities! The other part of your bucket analogy that I really like is this idea that you have ONE bucket. I see that as energy and attention. You can spend time filling up your bucket, but then you need to dump it to move on to filling it with sand from another area of the beach. This requires a letting go (which, of course, is not to say that you haven’t been enriched by the knowledge and life experience of that first filling). I think so often people become rigid in their ways of thinking or patterns of behavior because they are resistant to the dumping out of the sand that is required to fill the bucket with new sand. I could say more about this analogy, but I won’t here. Instead, I’ll say something about another analogy that has served me well.

I went through a divorce about 5 years ago, and it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t want it, and so I had to face not only the fear of an unknown future but I also had to come to grips with letting go of the life that I still wanted. This experience was my best life teacher. I could talk for a very long time about this, but I won’t here. What I will say is that the approach I take to life now is very much an outcome of that experience. I borrow heavily from many gurus who have gone before me in recognizing that life is a journey, like the flowing of a stream down a mountain. The beauty of a stream is that it flows freely, with no agenda about its prescribed path. It takes the path of least resistance, and when it hits an obstruction it doesn’t get stuck, trying and trying to move the obstruction or to barrel through it. No, it simply recognizes the obstruction (Oh, look, a rock.) and then flows around it. Sometimes it takes a completely different route because of the obstruction and sometimes it resumes its original direction. And sometimes the constant flowing of the stream eventually does wear down or remove the obstruction, but that isn’t the goal. The goal for the stream is to simply be a stream – to stay open to the experience of flowing down this mountain at this time. This approach, along with your beach sand and bucket analogy, underlies much of what mindfulness means to me and how I try to incorporate it into my life.

Incidentally, I do meditate, but mindfulness to me is more about an approach to the world than the actual meditation practice. And there is so much that mindfulness can contribute to the study of PP.

I have so much more to say on this (and some other cool analogies), but for now I’ll stop. Thoughts?

Katherine Peil 13 December 2008 - 8:37 am


Think feedback! Think negentropy! Think constructive interference! All these elements play roles in the self-regulatory sensory model. (Are there iterative equations in your model? If so think intrapsychic feedback,digital information via hedonic valence. Constructive, negentropic events being innately preferable. This in turn suggests either a contraction or expansion of the identity boundary conditions and the possibility of a self-other connection or disconnection.)

Make sense?
If not, recall how the coupling of positive and negative feedback loops in my model yeilds “edge of chaos” criticality between dual attractors of self-preservation (via negative emotion), and self-development via positive.
In short, external “between” interpersonal coordination/coherence, is a higher level manifestation of internal “within” intrapersonal coherence via self-regualtory feedback. This internal coherence and ability to stay in a relaxed positive state is related to mindfulness as well as “emotion regulation” and emotional intelligence and avoiding the self-protective “amgydala hyjack”. But it is really about understanding the dual regulatory goal states (self-preservation/self-development) within pleasurable and painful feelings, and recognizing the self-correcting changes both catedories are asking us to make. (Ongoing suffering is an abberation brought about by misunderstanding the self-regulatory meaning encoded within emotional perceptions, not to mention the human propensity to manipulate others via punative or rewarding emotional expressions and behaviors.)

Make more sense?
If not, sorry! But Stuart Kauffman is arriving in January and I hope to hammer out a language that bridges from the self-organizing biophysical “happenings” to self-regulatory “doings” in life forms — those that yeild digital hedonic behavior.
Like I said more to come…KTP

Katherine Peil 13 December 2008 - 8:43 am

The opening quote did not come through in the above post (so it makes NO sense at all). So please add this to the first line in between the …

“I have a formula that says C = E + 1. Connectivity equals Emotional field plus 1. What is this ‘one’? Is coordination of actions. It’s a binary variable (0: no coordination; 1: coordination)”

..Ah, the pleasures and horrors of technology! 🙂 KTP

Marcial Losada 13 December 2008 - 9:50 am

Kirsten, you left me speechless. What a good thing that is!

I traveled with your powerful images. There was not an inch, no, not even a Planck distance, separating your narrative from my feelings.

Because you can talk to my heart, I thank you.

Marcial Losada 13 December 2008 - 9:56 am


Your mind is so fast that I have to run to catch up with you! Nothing wrong with that. It’s good to switch tempos. I am more of an adagio-andante-allegro man. You are a prestissimo woman.

Yes, I did follow you. It’s always rewarding to follow you. You take me to places I want to revisit.

Marcial Losada 13 December 2008 - 10:26 am

Kirsten, you must be a terrific coach; your words are still with me. I guess I let them stay. One day I’ll have a coaching session with you.

Your stream was described beautifully by Antonio Machado, only his image was a road (but I prefer the stream because of its fluidity). I know part of this poem in Spanish:

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar…

Does someone know it in English? I don’t want to spoil such beautiful poetry with a mediocre translation.

Kirsten Cronlund 13 December 2008 - 3:00 pm


Thank you for your affirmation that my messages hit home. I suspect we speak the same language, and I would love to coach you sometime (not through divorce, though – I wouldn’t wish that on anyone). Or maybe we can collaborate on some articles on mindfulness. Any interest?

I don’t speak Spanish, so I’m afraid I have no idea what the poem you posted says. I would love a translation…

P.S. Tune in to PPND on the 15th of this month to see my article. The topic is resilience and mindfulness. I think you’ll appreciate it.

Kathryn Britton 13 December 2008 - 3:37 pm


Your comment about the image maps — that they capture only the ingredients, not the recipes — reminds me of a project my husband and daughter carried out when he was teaching her how to cook. They tried to plot the range of textures and tastes of pastry based on different ratios of flour, sugar, and butter and eggs. From pound cake to sponge cake to pancakes to filo pastry … In other words, there are lots of ways to put the ingredients together with lots of different results.

With the image maps, we were trying to create structures that would help people get oriented and navigate through what can seem a jumble of ideas. I like the idea of bringing in relationships, but I’m not sure how to pin them down. For example, Seligman defines the meaningful life as “using your signature strengths in service of something larger than you are.” p. 249 in Authentic Happiness. This relationship between meaning and signature strengths has come to seem very limited to me, a definition of meaning largely shaped by people who are currently in the ‘doing’ parts of their lives. It doesn’t account for the meaning of babies or people who are so old that they don’t have energy to get out of bed or so disabled that their sphere is very limited (https://positivepsychologynews.com/news/jordan-silberman/20070727354#comment-5712). Can’t they too have meaningful lives? I know they can have different kinds of impacts on the people around them. And what about using strengths that aren’t signature strenths?

I think we could have a lot of fun playing with ways to capture the relationships. The software engineer that still lingers in me perked up at the idea of exploring the ideas in terms of — What does it do (outputs) and what impinges upon it (inputs). Of course then there are the problems of how to represent them in ways that spark comprehension.

Senia and I have discussed where to put mindfulness in the image maps. Does it belong in the top-level picture? I don’t know. One thing I’ve noticed is that when a person is very interested in a particular topic, he or she can move it to the center position and have everything else revolve around it — whether that is gratitude or savoring or goals or signature strengths or … I have a little trouble settling on a main ingredient. Some baked goods owe their textures to lots of butter, others to lots of eggs. Is there a minimum of any one ingredient that must be there to have a well-lived life?

I guess this is my roundabout way of saying, Yea! what an interesting mental challenge! And welcoming your ideas.

But I’m going to have to become more comfortable with non-linear equations before I can do much with them. I need to read about your Meta Learning model. You’ve only given us a teaser here.


Marcial Losada 13 December 2008 - 3:54 pm


Loved your cooking images. So true. Good cooking is clearly nonlinear. If nothing else, it’s not good unless you put your heart into it. And once the heart is there linearity has to leave. Have you noticed how insipid are the meals cooked without love? All fast foods enter into that category for me. I hate them. They are awfully linear and lifeless.

Glad to hear you love a good challenge. I am sure the former software engineer in you will join the positive psychology side of you and cook a wonder-full meal.

If you could see my model running, both the software engineer and the PPND persona would feel at home. A home where both can live in the deepest harmony.

I only use mathematics to get to the heart of people.

Marcial Losada 13 December 2008 - 4:46 pm


Yes. I want to learn more about mindfulness from your perspective. So let’s put our hearts together. You’ll find my e-mail clicking on my name above.

Let me try to translate that poem, but I warn you I will never be able to capture the integral beauty it contains.

Traveler, is just the trail you leave
that creates the road, nothing else
Traveler, there is no road
the road is made as you walk
As you walk the road is made
and if you look behind
you’ll see the road
that you will never walk again
Traveler, there is no road
just the wakes over the sea

Believe me, it’s much better than that, but at least you get the flavor.

I’ll stay tune the 15th Kirsten of ancient Swedish descent.

I was in Sweden not too long ago. They invited me to give a talk in a beautiful old town, Uppsala. I gave the talk in the same room that Linnaeus taught. What a feeling that was! Then we went to visit an old church. I love some organ music, especially Messiaen, which is rarely played because is too mysterious and modern for traditional church services. As I walked into the church, the organist started playing my favorite Messiaen piece!! I stood there in awe. None of my hosts new about my musical preferences. A coincidence? You know what is the probability of an organist playing Messiaen in an old Swedish church as a Chilean walks in? I don’t know either, but I would take any bets that is less than one in a million.

Marcial Losada 13 December 2008 - 6:53 pm


I couldn´t wait for your next posting so I read one of your past articles. The quote from Kierkegaard you used is still resonating:

¨If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential.¨

It sums up my life endeavors. Wealth and power are not my kind of thing, but the passionate sense of the potential, ah…that is something different. To me the just the sense of the potential without the passion is like approaching a goal that recedes as you approach it, but if you put passion into it, then it stops receding because you run faster and can catch it.

I don´t know yet about your coaching, but I sense you are good at letting people find the passionate sense of the potential to overcome what appears dark and unsurmountable.

René Montemayor 28 April 2009 - 5:55 pm


I’m a student of Organizational Behavior. I came to this blog by following a trail of breadcrumbs which started with the 10 Faces of Innovation (Devil’s Advocate) and lead me to the Losada Line of P/N ratio for high performing relationships and teams.

I enjoyed reading this blog, it opened up my mind to new things. I have a personal question. My family has pointed out to me on several occasions, and I begin to see myself truthfully and conclude that they are right about their conclusions, that I am not very mindful about other people. I don’t pay attention to how I make other people feel. I get too wrapped up in the end result of how happy others are going to feel that by the time I am don dragging them through the process to get there, they are too bitter/angry/exhausted/upset to enjoy the good that I had planned for them. An analogy: I am an explorer leading a hungry/tired/thirsty expedition. I know that the group has little energy and lots of thirst and hunger. I know the likes of everybody and decide on the best oasis spot that will satisfy everybody’s needs. To get to this oasis, it is necessary to break off the trail and start climbing then descend down the other side and walk along a narrow path get into the clearing of this oasis that I know exists. Although the oasis that I promised my expedition is everything they wanted, they are still mumbling and grumbling over the nicks and scrapes they had to endure to get there.

Can you offer some insights into how people like me, who are unaware of mindfulness, can become mindful people?

I would like to bring this to the discussion. It is my poetic interpretation of the poem that Marcial posted. It is not a literal translation it is a liberal translation, but I believe it helps to capture at least some of the sentiment expressed in the original spanish poem.

Marcial, I doubt that there would be any direct translation of that poem in English. Most poems lose their beauty in translation.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar…

To Walk is to find a road,
footprints laid where there were none.

To Walk is to build a path,
looking back, you see what’s past.

Walker blend your roads,
to ebb and flow like gentle seas.

Marcial Losada 28 April 2009 - 10:55 pm

Beautiful translation René. You kept the music and rhythm that it has in Spanish. This poem has a very special meaning for me. When I first met Gian Carlo Rota, a very famous mathematician from MIT, he invited me to have lunch. When we were walking he started reciting in perfect Spanish this Machado poem. I continued with the following verse and so on until we got to the restaurant. No others words, no other comments. Just the poem. I never had that experience before. It was like playing two musical instruments. A rare duet.

Regarding your “problem.” In the Meta Learning model, there is one type of imbalance that happens on a few occasions. This is the problem of unbalance towards the “other.” Most people experience the unbalance towards “self” and a very few are able to balance the two, which is what really leads to flourishing. Try to find what is there in yourself that you are not taking care of. Oftentimes the answer lies in what you are seeking to do to others. It might be that there you’ll you’ll find where is your own inner missing part. If this is so, if you find your answer, then thrust yourself to the care of others without forgetting yourself. Your care will then be received as a gift. The best gift is giving yourself. But to give yourself you have to find yourself first.

Senia Maymin 29 April 2009 - 11:11 am

Wow, René and Marcial, what a beautiful discussion.

René, I think what you’re asking about also starts with self-awareness. And that you seem to have. You seem to be aware when you’re having not your ideal reaction.

Also, fyi, here are some mindfulness articles here on PPND, Positive Psychology News Daily.

Janice DiGirolamo 9 May 2009 - 6:18 pm

Thank you for the profound thinking re your work with teams and what works and why. I’ve just read the interview with Barbara Fredrickson in the Sun, which I only enjoyed initially as an affirmation of what I already know, until I got to her discussion of your work, which really knocked my socks off.

For 15 years, I put together large (50 to over 200 people) broad based, multi-disciplinary coordinating councils focused on family violence prevention which included the obvious members from the community–law enforcement, social service providers as well as defense attorneys, judges, schools, churches, medical doctors and nurses, public health, public aid, etc. These councils are located in nearly every county (over 100) in our state and in multi-county judical circuits.

These councils in our state have been very successful, both by their longevity and what they actually accomplish. I have pondered for years through reading mostly and talking to others, “what is true about this?” “why are these councils consistently successful?” It has not been true in other states or even cities where this has been tried.

In organizing the councils, I used many of the principles and assumptions that I found in reading David Bohm and other quantuum literature and the Open Space literature.
Thus, how we come together is as important as what we want to do, not more important, but “as” important; thus,leadership is critical; relationship and what develops out of relationship should guide us, etc.

The magic of what happened in this work I began to assume was because of the application and voicing of these kinds of principles; because of the quality of leadership, which we brought about through conscious attention to “what made good leadership;” because of the members past experience in working together in their communities; and because of the hope it gave people to come together around the possibility of preventing family violence and thus many other forms of violence fed by family violence (but, this one could not stand on its own as a reason because of all the failures in other states). We also went away from the idea of problem solving the past and toward creating what we envisioned together. (It was not easy to bring people to this positive approach; where they’d done it before, it was easier.)

The members, both in very small rural communities as well as large urban centers (Chicago, Rockford), voiced over and over how wonderful it was to get to know each other.

I thought I’d never get a definitive “answer” to my all encompassing question. I do believe that your work has brought forth the answer to my question. Your work and we what have and will learn from it has the potential to change what happens when people come together. It could have implications even for how economies function. It is so important in my mind that I’m unable even to find the words to express it.

Applying what you’ve discovered to the work we’ve done in our state, it would seem that because our assumptions as the organizers were very positive and the principles that we seeded and trained people on from the inception of each council were positive. So, we created a positive field and over time continued to inject positivity into the field or “space” so that it was reinforced. Again, thank you from my depths for this insightful, creative, and courageous work. Keep going, keep publishing; we need to know what you are discovering, as well as what you are thinking about the broader implications.

Marcial Losada 12 May 2009 - 1:39 pm

Janice, marvelous work you are doing. May you be blessed for it!

I am glad that my model fits your experience so well. This has happened often with people who work with highly complex issues and are successful but wonder why it works. This, in my view, is the essence of science: wondering WHY things work, not just HOW they work; that is the question for technology., and very necessary it is if we are to make progress.

I often wonder why the Meta Learning (ML) model works in so many diverse situations. There are many answers to that question. The one that comes to mind inmmediately for me, is a mathematical one. My model has practically the same mathematical structure as the Lorenz model which is applied successfully in many branches of science. The Lorenz model has been described by French scientists as a “pure mathematical object.” When a model reaches that status we can make enormous progress as we apply it to complex situations. All our greatest accomplishments have come from pure mathematical objets like the Schroedinger wave equation in quantum mechanics, the Ricci flow in the general theory of relativity, or string theory in cosmology.

But there is also a psychological argument. This is aligned especially with the research that my dear colleague and friend Barbara Fredrickson has done in positive psychology (PP). There are other researchers in PP whose findings also are aligned with the ML model. Furthermore, there is research in other areas of psychology that also aligns with my model; e.g. the work of my dear friend John Gottman with marriage couples. John and I often wonder about how coherent our finds are.

There is a third, more mysterious and arcane domain where we can search for answers. This is way beyond the scientific reach, so I am quite hesitant to tread that territory. My training as a scientist and a mathematiian rises all sorts of red lights when I even mention this thrid domain. We can call it “philosophical musings,” but I believe it’s even beyond that.

I will dare, though, to give you a metaphore. My model is powerful because it has six coordinates that can guide your existence (as a person in a relationship or as a person in a team). Let´s give these coordinates the ones in the compass: North, South, East and West. The other two we will call Up and Down. When we go North we reach in the Land of Other: other people, nature, art, science, technology, etc. In short, everything meaningful that transcends us. When we go South we reach the Land of Self: our own person with all its strengths and weaknesses, desires and fulfillments, coherences and incoherences. When we go East, we reach the Land of Wonder where curiosity, awe and inquiry live. This is the land inhabited by children who never tire of asking questions or true scientists who once they found an answer inmmediate question their results. As we travel West, we reach the Land of Affirmation where we forcefully state our points of view, defend what seems right to us, teach what we believe we know. The Land of Up is, of course, the land of Positivity and Down is Negativity.

What my model says is that in order to flourish we must visit ALL these lands and never prolong our visit in one of them forgetting the others. To flourish, we need to balance inquiry and advocacy as well as other and self. As we do this, we create expansive emotional fields where positivity is at least 3 times as powerful as negativity, but where negativity has a rightful place. None of this can be achieved, the ML model says, unless we connect with other people in a meaningful and lasting way. Connectivity is the key parameter in my model, what is knows in system dynamics as a “control parameter.” No man. or woman, organization or nations is an island. We are all in this together. When this awareness reaches our heart and we cannot be indifferent to the plight of people in distant lands or the call of nature to protect our environment, and we are capable of crying when we listen to moving music or see the hidden beauty in simple things, we are on the road to flourishing.

In short, probably the ML works because it gives you the main coordinates of human existence.

What do you think?

Noh Ju-young 1 June 2009 - 4:59 pm

In spite of my poor English ability, I’m really honored
that read all these posts.
I’m a officer in ROK ARMY(republic of Korea), only
second lieutenant.

These days, I had great fortunate that met your articles.
Especially Losada Line & Losada zone.

But owing to my poor English, it’s too hard to me that understanding your articles. ^^;;

So, I darely send my question to you directly.

How can we apply the Losada Line to ROK ARMY?
There are very strict rule and have very special political and international envirnments.(ex. face with the enemy over 50years).
Furthermore, South Korea maintains about 650,000 enlisted soldiers through a mandatory 24-month military service.

So, How can we apply the Losada Line to ROK ARMY?

But I believe that “Losada line” make happy army life to 650,000 enlisted soldiers. Also to me and other officers.

Thank you so much.

Marcial Losada 1 June 2009 - 5:00 pm

Dear Ju-young,

Thank you for writing. Your English is not so poor because I understood every word you wrote. Not only that, but you managed to convey a strong emotional feeling to your quest for a happier ROK ARMY. Many native English speaking people wouldn’t be able to convey your message as well as you did.

Your question is fascinating and very challenging. There is not an easy answer which is a good sign that it is a good question.

If I would be a second lieutenant in the ROK ARMY I would try to live up not only to the prescription of the Losada line (3 instances of positive feedback for every instance of negative feedback on average), but I would also pay attention to the other variables in the Meta Learning (ML) model: inquiry-advocacy and focus on others vs focus on yourself. I should try to balance both of them by asking questions when the situation demands so, and by giving answers when they are required.

Furthermore, I would have to pay as much attention to my needs as to the needs of others. Finally, I would always keep in mind that connectivity is the MASTER KEY that opens all the doors. A well-connected, ROK ARMY would be unbeatable. I live in Brazil whose soccer team has won more world champion than any other nation. Brazil always has exceptionally good individual players, but they only get to be world champions when they are exceptionally well connected and manage to create expansive emotional fields where what they call the “jogo bonito” ( the “beautiful playing”) is possible. Expansive emotional fields liberate you from routines and mediocrity and are a requisite for excellence in any complex activity. These expansive emotional fields are generated when the P/N ratio reaches the Losada line and you manage to create a beautiful symmetry between inquiry and advocacy as well as others and self.

I must also add that since I am not in ROK ARMY, it wouldn’t be possible for me to advice you on any specific actions that you may take which would comply with ROK ARMY expected behavior and eventually create a happier and more effcient ROK ARMY. But I bet you would be able to think of a few things that might help you improve the interaction processes of the people that are in close relationship with you. The good thing about ML is that it is a nonlinear model and that means that small interventions can create unexpectedly great results. You might not get to bring the 650,000 enlisted men where you would like them to be, but you can do quite a lot about your particular company or platoon. To change the many, you start by changing the few.

I hope this is useful. Let me know if you make any progress. And good luck to you and the ROK ARMY

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