According to Rene Descartes, the ability to think rationally is what differentiates humans from other species but there is evidence that suggests otherwise. Some animals seem to be showing signs of the ability to think and experience emotions. https://www.economist.com/news/essays/21676961-inner-lives-animals-are-hard-study-there-evidence-they-may-be-lot-richer-science-once-thought
Whilst our species may not be in imminent danger of being overthrown by the animal kingdom, a more pressing challenge is that of the impact of the digital age. Some of these challenges emerge from our relationship with social media and technological advancement in areas of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). Whereas the word ‘detox’ was previously associated with refraining from alcohol, drugs or food, the new detox regime many people are talking about now is one of a social media detox. https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/the-hardest-bad-habit-to-break/news-story/959fb549116fd19944a8a001f40e1118
Looking on the positive side of things, if social media enables us to have information at our fingertips, if robots can now do more of the mechanical and mundane tasks that used to be previously performed by humans and if AI helps to produce faster decisions to certain types of problems what is the implication of such progress for human beings? One implication is that people could have more time on their hands to focus on things that matter, personally, corporately and socially. Arguably then the key differentiator between humans and other species, be they animal or artificial, could be the quality of thinking that gets done.
Yet, in our busy working lives, we know that time is still a precious commodity. Our use of time tends to focus upon effort and targets, but research is showing that a shift towards balancing the human and technical aspects of work creates happier, more productive people, and more successful organisations. A key part of making this happen is having strategies that encourage and support reflection. In a 2016 HBR working paper researchers found that “Now more than ever we seem to be living lives where we’re busy and overworked, and our research shows that if we’d take some time out for reflection, we might be better off.’ https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/learning-by-thinking-how-reflection-improves-performance. In previous decades, Peter Drucker identified that if we ‘follow effective action with quiet reflection’, ‘even more effective action’ will result. Indeed, we would argue that following action that may seem to have been less than effective with reflection is just as crucial and potentially productive.
In this series of Level Seven ‘7s’ we share insights into how to be more reflective and support reflection in ourselves as well as our colleagues. We advocate that spending time on the following 7 aspects of reflection could help you to become a more productive and purposeful reflector.
- Purpose and intention or think about what you want to think about.
- Find your preferred method of reflection.
- Formal or informal reflective time or how to be an opportunistic reflector.
- The act of reflecting.
- Contextualising the reflections or how to be conscious of mental models, biases and assumptions.
- Timing is everything or how to encourage intuition, incubation and insight.
- Output and action or what do I do with my reflective output?
Follow our subsequent blogs as we think and reflect deeper into each of these aspects.