At the PIA Continuous Improvement Conference in Dallas last week, I gained an unexpected benefit, insight into the value of reflection as you strive to improve. I had previously worked on a project for the Association for Manufacturing Excellence and gained an understanding of the importance of reflective listening. But now, I expanded my insight applied the value of reflection in learning.
If you don’t take time to reflect on what went well and what did not go well, you will not learn from your experience, and you will not retain anything from your experience. This point became evident in a conference exercise called Kata in the Classroom. In the session, we performed the activity several times. After establishing a baseline for our proficiency in the task, we then experimented with making a change to improve our process. During the multiple experiments, we found that each team was more successful when they took time to reflect on what worked and what did not work. Based on our reflections, we planned the next experiment. Reflecting on what we learned, helped us to improve. We all agreed that reflection should be a part of any training or plan to improve ourselves or our company.
Benefits of Reflection
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of reflection. First, you will gain self-awareness. As many famous coaches tell us, failure is a part of learning. Success coach Darren Hardy says to fail up, meaning to grow from failure. Your failures are your stepping-stones to success. I always remember what Edison said about failing 10,000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
Failure leads to great ideas. Taking time for reflection, allows you to dismiss the ideas that don’t work and generate new ideas that may work. Reflection is a part of creativity. It also increases insight and allows the brain to create new pathways so that further learning can take place. We found in our exercise that reflection allowed us to build on the ideas of one another. Thus, the relationships grew stronger, and we learned to work together. Reflective thinking also helped us pull out ideas and put things into context making it easier to remember the main points.
Retain Learning and Make Better Decisions
Reflection enables you to retain what you have learned. It helps you codify and organize the knowledge into your brain’s repository. Meaningful reflection should become a part of every learning experience. John Dewey, considered the modern father of experiential learning, said:” We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” In his book, How We Think, Dewey discusses the basis and consequences of beliefs. He found that short cuts without reflection cause people to construct opinions based on insufficient knowledge and understanding. The result is errors in judgment and mistakes. Reflection allows you to give active, persistent, and careful consideration of any beliefs or opinions. Thus, reflection will enable you to make better decisions and avoid making mistakes or repeating mistakes.
Apply Reflection to Daily Life
We realized as we worked in our teams, that we could apply reflection to our day-to-day activities as well as our efforts to improve at work. We could use it to resolve conflict, reduce frustration, express opinions and manage stress. The team also thought it would be helpful as we set goals and priorities in our work and personal life. You can reflect on your values, your mission, your respect for others and how you apply skills and tools such as those we learned at the conference.
Consider adding reflection to your toolbox, and you will experience organic, sustainable growth.