It is certain that most contemporary organizations face challenges characterized by lack of stability and difficulties towards tolerating emerging risks. In this case, it has become quite cumbersome to predict the future prospects, growth as well as stability of such organizations (Vince 2003, p.63).
As a matter of fact, this has a direct implication on the operation of business organizations in the sense that there is need to incorporate business management knowledge in order to understand the nature and cause of emerging issues that affects such organizations.
By so doing, this will enable individuals to employ effective approaches in order to generate effective business decisions to such issues. It is imperative to note that society has become dynamic and thus there is need to embrace knowledge –oriented economy (Vince 2002, p.63).
Needless to say, such a transformation would definitely call for innovative, flexible and proactive management of organizations so that they are able to compete effectively in the global market (Daudelin 1996, p.36). It is against this backdrop that this paper aims to critically evaluate the application of reflection and reflective practices within contemporary organizations as part and parcel of management strategies.
To begin with, it is notable that reflection and reflective practices take different forms in order to facilitate innovation, growth and development of both the human resource and organizations. Empirical research studies are quite categorical that reflective practices act as an effective tool of action and thought in the management of organizations.
It is apparent that reflection is crucial since it fosters organizational learning. Besides, critical reflection fosters effective management of organizational learning (Vince 2002, p. 64). The latter can be achieved by applying appropriate reflective practices and tools.
It is worth noting that reflection has been regarded as an active and purposeful means of discovery and exploration in organizations. Some economic and management theorists argue out that the bridge that exists between experience and learning involves aspects such as feelings and cognitions (Vince 2003, p.69). In this case, reflection helps individuals to think and reason in order to facilitate the process of understanding.
Moreover, through reflection, human beings are able to capture a concept and incorporate it into their personal knowledge. Additionally, they obtain a platform through which they can relate the new knowledge with previous experiences. Therefore, it is beyond doubt to argue that reflection is a major component of learning that is much needed when managing organizations.
Evidence has shown that though reflection is a crucial tool for organizational learning, very few organizations pay sufficient attention to it. Moreover, it has been observed that most organizations do not incorporate reflective tool in their leadership and management skills. Instead, most individuals highly prefer actions than reflection (Daudelin 1996, p.38). This has become a huge blow to numerous organizations especially once they get themselves tapped amid emerging challenges.
It is worth to note that learning helps individuals to generate creative thought and effective approach to complex issues (Reynolds 1998, p.180) .From a careful review of literature, organizational learning is imperative and acts as a departure point to unearth and create solution to emerging problems in organizations. Nevertheless, the concept of organizational learning has been understood in different ways by scholars. In this case, the concept can be interpreted in numerous ways where several criteria can be used.
Better still; one way of establishing organizational learning is by ensuring that there is consistency between the formal and informal facets of an organization. By so doing, one ensures that the goals of learning in an organization match with the needs of the individuals (Sarah & Austin 2002, p. 71). Additionally, there is a need to understand that challenging tasks act as preconditions to foster learning in an organization. For instance, tasks should be organized in a manner that will stimulate human development (Billett 1996, p. 48).
This implies that, the environment within the organization should motivate individuals to work and learn more out of the daily experiences. It is also crucial to mention the fact that when individuals get motivated, their degree of competence increases and this acts as a platform that helps them to gain new knowledge and insights.
It is definite that providing workers with guidance and support is an essential way of fostering developmental learning. This involves investigation, supporting and guiding workers on how to carry out certain tasks (Vince 2003, p.72). This enables them to learn as they work.
Moreover, they learn as they reflect on the kind of work they perform especially through feedbacks. For instance, complimenting workers for their work create an insight in them to learn and exercise new ideas in organizations. Worthwhile, this can only be achieved by establishing planning and reflection session.
Scholars argue that interdisciplinary partnership is important while addressing organizational learning (Reynolds 1998, p.180). In this case, workers should be engaged with vocational education and training. With this in mind, it is arguable that reflection gives learning a constructive meaning.
Quite often, most individuals believe that the concept of reflection does not exist. This calls for the need to develop economic blue prints on how reflection can promote learning in organizations. In any case, several researchers claim that reflection is a cognitive process and therefore it is expected to be a complex concept. Notably, there are numerous forms of reflections namely reflection and critical reflection.
Moreover, it is imperative to note that reflection can be classifies in levels. For example there is the interaction and organizational levels of interaction. Most important thing to note is that though reflection is an individual cognitive process, one reflects in a social context (Billett 1996, p. 43). In most case, reflection is embedded in social or organizational interaction. Factually, reflective practices focus to approach and understand an immediate problem or task.
At this juncture, this calls for critical reflection that involves contextual questioning. This form of reflection is vital in solving problems that are related to existing presuppositions. Critical reasoning helps individual to identify why people reason in a particular manner and thus tend to predict the cause of certain actions (Foster & Stines 2011, p. 9). This type of reflection helps to attach meaning to reality. In this case, this has to do with relationships and roles that exist in organizations.
Thus critical reflection is a psychological mechanism that helps individuals to interpret and understand the immediate world. Pointless to say, this type of reflection is vital in organizational learning by the fact that individuals are able to surface existing assumptions, scrutinize and sort those that are varied and decline those that are invalid (Steen 2004, p.444). Consequently, critical reflection has been perceived as a crucial aspect of reflection that highly adds value to organizations.
Notably, the process of questioning eventually leads to exchange of ideas, experience and knowledge that stimulate learning. Eventually, the outcomes results to individual and organizational development. Of important to mention is that reflections involves a combined effort and this promotes collective learning (Bourner 2003, p. 267). Essentially, one can argue that critical reflection acts as a bridge between an individual and organizational learning.
Empirically, several theoretical approaches have been used to outline the levels of reflection. According to John Dewy, inhibition of action acts as a pre-condition for reflection. The theorist argues that habitual acts do not give room fro reflection. Moreover, he asserts that postponing an action creates an internal impulse that gives one room to reflect (Hawamdeh & Jaradat, 2012, p. 689).
Majority of human personnel suffer from impacts of their actions. It is therefore, evident that a feedback is a crucial tool in reflection since it helps one to know whether they are experiencing organizational growth and individual development. Dewey’s theory outlines several approaches that can be used to conceptualize the cause of problem and knowledge acquisitions (Reynolds, 1998, p.180).
For instance, the theory recommends that individuals should have a guiding idea towards a particular action. Moreover, there I need to find out how ideas relate to each other. Therefore, this calls for voluntary thinking in order to consciously establish rational evidence. Finally, it is important for individuals to test the guiding idea in order to predict its outcome.
Theoretically, adult education has a significant role to play in promoting reflection and organizational learning (Stewart, Keegan & Pam 2008, p. 347). Certainly, we are living in an era where organizational learning should be made deliberate and intentional among adults. In this view, reflection is a mandatory tool for every individual determined to learn.
There is need to re-examine past gained experience with new knowledge. Consequently, this gives an individual a shift of focus and change of altitude in regard to the new learning. At this juncture, one gets embedded to thinking, acting right and taking effective strategies to deal with immediate situations (Kelloway & Barling 2000, p.284).
Problem solving is another approach that can be used to evaluate the level of reflections and enhance organizational learning. Researchers claim that the approach helps one to re-construct, organize and extend the level of thinking with the aim of enhancing stability and balance in organizational activities.
Possibly the only way to kick out uncertainty, instability and conflict in an organization is to face the problem situation. This can be done by reflecting back in older to unearth the impact of some actions (Bruce & Flood 2000, p.169). Notably, individuals in organizations need to apply both tactic and conscious knowledge in order to establish a harmonious relation between the knowledge and action. Seemingly, reflection creates a lot of potential in enhancing organizational activities and performance (Kelloway & Barling 2000, p.284).
From a theoretical perspective, reflection must first start an individual level. However, there is need to interact with other individuals in an organization in order to reinforce each other with ideas, knowledge and experiences on how to handle emerging issues. Interactive reflection gives room for critical opinion sharing, experimentation, group-thinking and analyzing feedbacks (Bourner 2003, p. 268).
In a shift of focus, reflective practice is the act of looking back and evaluating issues that previously inspired an organization to make a poeitive change (Jim, Anne & Stevens 2008, p .347). In this case, the concept allows individuals to illuminate past encounters in order to establish a base for future actions. Reflective practices can be done through seminars, organizational meeting, dialogues and storytelling. This is a crucial tool in organizational learning since it fosters the spirit of inquiry (Pietroni 2002, p.7).
Eventually, reflective practice causes individuals to understand past experiences that might have been neglected. Typically, reflective practice give room to make enquiries on fundamental assumptions that spearheaded to commit certain actions (Coghlan, Dromgoole, Joynt & Sorensen 2004, p.58). Research has shown that such practive brings to surface social, political and economical experiences that existed in the past (Reynolds 1998, p.182).
In this case, such practices create space for public scrutiny to interpret and evaluate the reason behind committing certain actions. Notably, individual assumptions are subjected to public review a factor that calls for attention to improve on the past actions. (Katrina 2012, p. 28) Research has shown that, reflective practice builds confidence among organizational members to be challenged more often without fear of reprisal.
Moreover, it is evident that the practice encourages experimentation and discovery. In the bottom line of business, several organizations perceive this practice as irrelevant and time wasting (Kelloway & Barling 2000, p.285). In addition, workers are likely to fear revealing their shortcomings for fear of retaliation. This explains why reflective practice is often marginalized as many people perceive it as troublesome.
Nevertheless, reflective practice has some economic value that can improve organizational performance and learning. For instance, empirical study has shown that reflective practices help members to learn from past mistakes.
In this case, reflection allows them to become conscious of undesirable aspects in organizations (Bourner 2003, p. 270). Such aspects include mistakes and problems that come in due to poor reasoning and biased assumptions. Furthermore, it is believed that they are likely not to repeat mistakes that were once done in the past.
Vision sharing is another value that comes about due to reflection. Imperatively, whenever members share their visions they inspire one another and even suggest ideas to improve their visions. This is definitely constructive especially when visions shared are related to the goals of the organization (Foster & Stines 2011, p. 11). In addition to this, people share knowledge that foster curiosity and learning. In most case, people motivate each other and create insights that benefit their lives and contribute to development of organizations.
That notwithstanding, reflective practices encourage group thinking (Vince 2003, p.72). It is essential when people think as a group in order to challenge each other. This tends to terminate dogmatic assumptions that individuals have which might be the possible causes of problems in organizations.
Empirically, breaking an arduous assumption can be the hardest thing and to some extent, it can affect operation and organizational learning (Gray 2007, 497). Nonetheless, this is possible in a groupthink since members do not fear being question about their assumptions.
Essentially, reflective practices five chance to evaluate a feedback. This is an ample chance to reflect on the impacts of particular actions. Note that some organizations are normally structured in a manner that they do not use feedback as a visible guide to actions. Regardless of the fact that workers work in social contests, they need to have a benchmark to propel their ideas and action.
Finally, experimentation is vital for workers since it help them to uncover their strength and weaknesses while performing specific tasks (Shotter & Katz 2005, p. 81). Through reflection, they are able to compare and note the rate in which they progress to perfection.
There is need to note that reflection in organizational learning creates a sustainable opportunity for learning and making changes (Pietroni 2002, p.7). It is crucial to point out that, there are specific practices that can make reflection useful in organizational learning and performance.
Needless to say, the practices have distinct characteristics that make them effective. For instance, the practices should lead to collective enquiry and questioning of assumptions that exist in a particular organization (Gray 2007, p. 495). The other fact is that reflective practice should act as a management tool for anxiety and assumptions that exist within organizations. Finally, the practices should be used to enhance democracy where every individual in an organization has an equal chance to participate (Van Woerkom 2004, p.180).
To reiterate on the above, reflection and reflective practice are vital tools that add value to individuals and organizations. It is imperative to mention that these tools need to be integrated in every organization in order to foster individual development, organizational learning and performance. From a theoretical perspective, it is beyond doubt that reflection is the key to advancing ideas, knowledge and experience.
Moreover, reflection encourages innovation, flexibility and increased productivity in organizations. Therefore, it is definite that adopting reflection in organization management eventually fosters insightful learning and increases organizational performance. On the same note, thinking, learning and action are the key components of reflection. In line with this, both reflection and reflective practice take definite processes in order to achieve the desired outcomes.
Billett, S 1996, “Toward a model of a work lace learning: the learning Curriculum” Studies in continuing Education, vol. 18 no. 1, pp.43-58.
Bourner, T 2003, “Assessing reflective learning”. Education and Training, Vol. 45 no. 5, pp. 267-72.
Bruce, L. & Flood, R. 2000, “Reflections on leadership and learning: Revisiting the Fifth Discipline”. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, vol. 21 no 3, pp.162-163.
Coghlan, D Dromgoole, D Joynt, P & Sorensen, P 2004, Managers Learning in Action: Management Learning, research and education, Routledge, London.
Daudelin, W1996, “Learning through experience through reflection”. Organization Dynamics, vol. 24 no. 3, pp. 36-48.
Foster, R & Stines, A 2011, “Experience, Thinking and Learning: An Integrated Definition and Framework of Reflection”. Organization Development Journal, vol. 29 no. 2, pp.9-19.
Gray, D 2007, “Facilitating Management Learning: Developing Critical Reflection through Reflective Tools”. Management Learning, vol. 38 no. 5, pp. 495-517.
Hawamdeh, B & Jaradat, M 2012, “Basics of the ‘learning organization’ at jordanian schools: a case study. Education, vol.132 no. 3, pp. 689-696.
Jim, S, Anne, K, & Stevens, P 2008, “Postgraduate education to support organisation change: a reflection on reflection. Journal of European Industrial Training, vol. 32 no. 5, pp. 347-358.
Katrina, S 2012, “Exploring our ecological selves within learning organizations”. The Learning Organization, vol. 19 no.1, pp. 28-37.
Kelloway, K & Barling, J 2000, “Knowledge work as organizational behavior. International. Journal of Management Reviews vol. 2 no.5, pp. 287-304.
Pietroni , P 2002, “Towards reflective practice – the languages of health and social care. Journal of Interpersonal Relationships Vol. 6 no.1, pp. 7-16.
Reynolds, M, 1998, “Reflection and Critical Reflection in Management Learning”, Management Learning, vol. 4 no.1, pp.183-200.
Sarah, C. & Austin, J 2002, “Implementing welfare reform and guiding organizational change. Administration in Social Work, vol. 26 no. 1, pp.61-77.
Shotter, J, & Katz, A 2005, “Living moments; in Practice” in dialogical exchanges”. Human Systems vol. 9 no.3, pp. 81-93.
Steen, H 2004, “Reflection as a core process in organizational learning”. Journal of Workplace Learning, vol. 167 no.8, pp.442-454.
Stewart, J, Keegan, A, &Pam, S 2008, “Postgraduate education to support organization change: a reflection on reflection. Journal of European Industrial Training, vol. 32 no. 5, pp. 347-358
Van Woerkom, M 2004, “The concept of critical reflection and its implications for human resource development. Advances in Developing Human Resources vo. l6 no. 2, pp.178-192.
Vince, R 2002, “Organizing Reflection”. Management Learning vol. 33 no.1, pp. 63-78.
Vince, R 2003, “Organizational Management”. Management and Learning Vol.33 no. 1, pp. 63-78.