Scholars Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, Giada Di Stefano, and Bradley Staats have published an interesting new working paper titled "Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance." The paper describes a series of experimental studies conducted by these researchers. In one study, they conducted a field experiment at Wipro, an outsourcing firm based in India. The scholars worked with employees experiencing a multi-week training program. They broke the employees into three groups. First, they had a "reflection" group. They asked these workers to spend the final 15 minutes of each day reflecting on what they had learned. Second, they had a "sharing" group. These employees spent 15 minutes reflecting, and then they shared their thoughts with a peer for approximately 5 minutes. Finally, the control group did not engage in any closing activity at the end of each day's training.
What were the results of this field experiment? The employees in the reflection group performed 22.8% better than the control group on a test administered at the end of the training program. The workers in the sharing group experienced a similar advantage over the control group employees.
The results should not surprised you at all. Some of you are probably wondering why we needed an experiment to prove the obvious! However, think for a moment about the work that you and your colleagues do in your organization. How busy is your typical day? Have you set aside 15-20 minutes for reflection and sharing from time to time? In many cases, we don't allocate time to this important activity. Yes, we do it informally, perhaps during a drive home from work or while working out at the gym. In many instances, though, we get so busy in the day-to-day work that we allow far too many days to pass while we are not reflecting and sharing appropriately.