Learning by thinking

I was alerted through Twitter https://twitter.com/gpetriglieri to this paper which I think makes a huge contribution to encouraging the use of reflective practice in the business world.

Learning by thinking: How reflection aids performance. HBS working paper 14-093
In times of greater atomization of work, the individual is the level at which much of the learning within organisations occurs. Individual workers with greater self-efficacy will select more challenging tasks, exert more effort and have less adverse reactions when faced with difficulties. In other words ‘more engaged!’ and the development of such self-efficacy in workers is best supported through reflection yet;
“I don’t see a lot of organizations that actually encourage employees to reflect—or give them time to do it,” (one of the paper’s authors Francesca) Gino says. “When we fall behind even though we’re working hard, our response is often just to work harder. But in terms of working smarter, our research suggests that we should take time for reflection.”


Dewey: “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
The authors of this paper introduce the concept of ‘learning by thinking’, that is the controlled, conscious learning that comes from reflection and the articulation of the key lessons learned from experience.

Reflection is the mechanism or vehicle through which experience is translated into learning. A motivating feeling of self-efficacy is produced which inspires greater and better learning going forward, so giving momentum to individual growth. Self-efficacy is the confidence is one’s ability to achieve a goal; an individuals’ expectations and convictions of what they can accomplish. Those with a greater feeling of self-efficacy will devote more time and energy because they believe their efforts will translate into success.

The authors call for a “Learning model in which the automatic, unconscious process of learning generated from experience is coupled with the controlled, conscious attempt at learning by reflection.” If we accept that there has “been almost no effort to encourage individuals to reflect” and that time is seen as being the ‘ultimate scarcity’; what is the best way to support individual reflection?
In my view, local leaders can support massively through the deployment of quality conversations with fellow workers that question what has been ‘noticed’ (previous blog post https://matthewpaynelimited.com/2014/04/07/restoring-noticing/)and stimulate the realisation of conscious incompetence and subsequent moves to conscious competence.