About ten years ago, now, Jay Cross and I met and with some other colleagues, started what we called the Meta-Learning Lab. We’ve maintained our interest in meta-learning across our involvement now with the Internet Time Alliance, and a component we identified as one of the most valuable activities you can do is reflection.
We don’t mean just navel-gazing, of course, but instead we mean systematically stepping back and reviewing ongoing activity with a view towards looking for improvement. It’s baked into things like Watts Humphrey’s Personal Software Process, and without that level of rigor, it still has benefits. Even more so if it’s shared.
So, blogging is one way of sharing your thoughts and getting feedback (as I do here). The social processing that happens when sharing is not just for formal learning, but for personal, self-directed learning as well. Creating a representation of your understanding is valuable in and of itself, to make your thinking concrete, but sharing and getting feedback is even more powerful.
This isn’t just for individuals, of course, but also for teams. If teams share their collective thinking (blogs again, or perhaps wikis), they can get feedback not just from each other but also from non-team individuals. This improves the thinking.
And we can start using richer media than just text. We can capture our understanding with images, audio or video, e.g. conducting interviews (you think differently creating a response to a deep question synchronously than asynchronously). You can go out and create a video of something that communicates what you think. You can even film a performance by the individual or team and bring it back for discussion. What a couple of high-tech firms have done, having outstanding performers talk about or perform on video, and adding their own reflections (‘directors notes’ versions), is really powerful for learners too.
Mobile gives us the capability to be more flexible in our communication capture and sharing, which decouples our thinking from the desktop. We also may be able to review interactions in a social media system, messages and such, to reflect on our communication patterns and improve. And facilitating all this is, to me, one of the opportunities for the learning professional as we start a) expanding our responsibility for all performance, not just ‘training’, and b) start investing our efforts in proportion to the workplace impact (c.f. 70:20:10).
So, I encourage you to start reflecting personally, of course, but consider also reflecting socially, with your colleagues, teammates, and more. Learning out loud is a key to moving forward faster and more effectively.