In my last blog post, I discussed several reasons why organizations don't learn effectively from experience. New research from Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano & Bradley Staats demonstrates that reflection proves critical to personal and organizational improvement. These scholars have published a working paper titled, "Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance." They argue that we can't simply rely on learning by doing. We have to reflect upon that experience to learn effectively. They conducted a series of studies to examine the role of reflection in the learning and improvement process. They conclude the following:
In our daily battle against the clock, taking time to step back and engage in a deliberate effort to learn from one’s prior experience would seem to be a luxurious pursuit. Though some 9 Data show that between 1973 and 2000, “the average American worker added an additional 199 hours to his or her annual schedule—or nearly five additional weeks of work per year (assuming a 40-hour workweek)” (Schor, 2003: 7). In the meanwhile, between 1969 and 2000, “the overall index of labor productivity per hour increased about 80 percent, 27 organizations increasingly rely on deliberate learning tools, as in the case of after-action reviews and post-mortems (Catmull, 2014), there has been little effort to encourage individuals to take the time to think about the past, rather than to do more and more. Articulating and codifying prior experience does entail the high opportunity cost of one’s time, yet we argue and show that thinking after completing tasks is no idle pursuit: It can powerfully enhance the learning process, and it does so more than the accumulation of additional experience on the same task. Performance outcomes, we find, can be augmented if one deliberately focuses on learning from experience accumulated in the past. Results from our studies consistently show a significant increase in the ability to successfully complete a task when individuals are given the chance to couple some initial experience with a deliberate effort to articulate and codify the key lessons learned from such experience.