Reflection is the power tool to personal & professional growth

by Chris Winfield-Blum  - August 13, 2020

One of the most effective forms of personal and professional development is through experience, but unfortunately this is often not leveraged to full effect. Most people assume that simply by experiencing different situations, they naturally learn from it.

This is an unfortunate symptom of our busy lives and a lack of understanding or appreciation for how we actually develop our skills, whether they be leadership, management, coding, writing or any other interest we hold for that matter.

To truly get the most out of our experiences we need to ensure that appropriate time is invested (I use this word purposely, because it is an investment) in observation and reflection.

Action-Observation-Reflection Model

Some of you may have heard about the AOR model, but for those who haven’t I would like to introduce it now. The principle is called “the action-observation-reflection model” which we can all use across various aspects of our lives to develop and grow in a natural way.

The below diagram is the visual representation of the AOR Model, aptly named the “spiral of experience”;

Within this model we can see that our experience grows naturally as we act, observe the results and impacts and then reflect on the outcomes. When you visualise it this way it is kind of common sense right?

In sports this can take form in video review sessions or even analysis of movement through high res replay technologies.

In projects, product or software development we use sprint and projects retrospectives where we ask reflective questions such as;

  • What did we do well?
  • What could/should we have done better?
  • What actions should we take to improve

This model is probably not blowing your mind at this point; it seems obvious when presented in such a simple diagram but often we fail to invest the time to see the spiral through its natural cycle, effectively stunting the potential experience gained.

Some easy to apply reflection tools or habits you should work to develop

Don’t book back-to-back-to-back meetings

This is a big one, we’re all human and we tend to live in the moment. This is an evolutionary hangover, as those not focused on the now, and therefore survival, often didn’t contribute back in the gene-pool.

For those involved in strategically significant projects, ensure that you block out a small window of time after to reflect and take your own notes.

Reflect on the good as well as the bad

We tend to only reflect on the bad things (or dwell on them) but there is a lot to gain by also critically reflecting on yourself and those around us in positive outcomes too.

There’s a book called Strength Finder, which is worth a read, but the premise of the book is that the value we can gain through working on our strengths far outweighs the value to be gained by “fixing weaknesses”. I have found this to be very true from my experiences as well but in the context of reflection this suggests that we should also reflect on the good as well as the bad and ugly.

Reflection is time critical

The benefits of reflection are affected by the time in which it is conducted. There is little point reflecting on something that occurred a month ago, or a year ago; in fact, I would argue that this is dwelling, not reflecting.

The simple truth is the closer to the “action” you conduct your reflection the more you will get out of it.

author avatar
Chris Winfield-Blum Operations Manager
Software enthusiast, operations & project manager, MBA graduate, team builder, creator, developer, writer and father.
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Chris Winfield-Blum

Software enthusiast, operations & project manager, MBA graduate, team builder, creator, developer, writer and father.

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