Reflective learning will dramatically improve and accelerate your learning at work?

For most of us we have the opportunity to learn all of the time. Reflective learning comes easily to some of us. Without much effort we are often putting 2 and 2 together as we draw conclusions and make new neural connections.

From a brain based learning perspective we are either reinforcing existing connections or creating new connections that we call new thinking or insights. If we are fortunate to get an insight it has the opportunity to modify our thinking and then our behaviour.

Unfortunately this is often a hit or miss affair, sometimes we learn and sometimes we don't and sometimes we are not fully aware or clear on what we may actually be learning.

It is left for people to learn intuitively by some process of "osmosis" with no real check on the quality or relevance or practical implications of their learning.

So as humans we may be wired to learn, but many of us don't have the right awareness, learning skills or learning knowledge to maximise and focus our learning and thereby change our thinking and behaviours. The key to changing this is about improving our reflective learning approaches.

More learning tips here

More on reflective learning here

There are implications for this lack of reflective learning at work.


Much of this hit and miss learning is private and isn’t communicated or shared with others. This reduces the chance of other people’s perspectives helping to refine and deepen the learning. It also reduces the benefits of the learning to one no the team.


With little “checking” with others on the quality and relevance of the learning we can as easily be learning the wrongs things to do as the right things.  We can as easily come to the conclusion we don’t need to change or do anything differently as concluding we need to change our behaviours. This is called defensive reasoning and it is a particularly common barrier to learning with managers and technical experts. It is also an example of poor reflective learning


So what are the best ways to that we can deepen our learning, gain more insights and overcome our natural tendencies to defensive reasoning?  


The simple answer is that we provide our selves and others the opportunities to think about and scrutinise our own learning. We think about our thinking (do reflective learning) and hold it up to the light to be considered.

This is simply called a Learning Review and it is part habit and part structure and represents a quick win that you can start right now?

More video tips on informal learning

More on leadership characterisitcs and learning

How to use a learning log to accelerate your learning

If you develop the good habit of reflective learning and reviewing your learning you can expect these 5 huge benefits:

1.      Accelerate your own learning

2.      Creating additional insights and learning’s with others in your work place

3.      Develop your attentiveness and self-awareness of your behaviour and its impact on others.

4.      Develop your learning flexibility and ability to take on change

5.      Become a better leader


Here are 3 ways to do reflective learning in a learning review.


  1. Questioning Others

Help others deepen and make their learning at least as twice as more effective by asking them questions.  Here are some examples that I have put together over the years.

·         What did you do?

·         What was the impact?

·         What would you do differently with the benefits of hindsight?

·         How can you put this insight into practice?

·         What exactly will you do and by when?

·         Are you happy to talk about how it went when you have completed this action?


I am not saying that these are the only questions you can use. You might have better ones!

I can tell you that it has been my experience over the years that questions like these work really well if you want to encourage a learning review in others.


  1. Questioning others and discussing with the team.

This is a more ambitious and communal learning review. It can be held regularly and or at the end of notable pieces of work or after specific feedback. There are 3 steps to this process.


    1. Discuss benefits of a communal learning review and get the team to buy in  
    2. Ask each team member to prepare 3 bits of information

                                                              i.      A recent work experience good or bad

                                                            ii.      Their conclusions or lessons learned

                                                          iii.      Their plan to do something better as a result

    1. Have the meeting, share time evenly between the team members, challenge any sloppy thinking, offer additional perspectives, and look for stretch.


Talking about the learning with others clarifies the learning, can lead to deeper insights and shares the learning benefits around.  


More information on the learning organization


  1. Questioning your self

This is about reflecting on your own thinking and behaviour and doing a personal learning review. You can do this by yourself (and we recommend you do) but it is more powerful if you get someone else involved. Here are 2 terrific ways in which you can do this.


    1. Learning Buddy/thought partner  

This is a 4 step process:


                                                              i.      You find a trusted friend or colleague who can see the benefits of  being in a learning partnership

                                                            ii.      You reflect on an experience, write down your conclusions and thoughts, note down possible actions

                                                          iii.      You create a safe and informal opportunity to share your thinking with your learning buddy . You look to add more value to your own and your buddy’s learning’s.

                                                          iv.      You write own how you are going to put these ideas into practice and set a time for your next meeting.


    1. Executive Coach

A similar process however you are in a partnership with a trained professional who will use coaching questions to encourage you to think and reflect on your experiences until you achieve a number of insights.  


A good Executive Coach will then help you think through the impact of your learning and insights on other aspects of your professional and personal life.


They will also help you design actions that will have positive impacts for you and your team and organisation.


Using an Executive Coach also provides:


                                                              i.      A systemised meeting in which to do the thinking , (useful in acutely busy working environments)

                                                            ii.      A methodology and route map to follow

                                                          iii.      A trusted thinking partner

                                                          iv.      Some accountability   for your implementation of actions


Back to principles of learning

Back to the learning company