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Can you build reflective practice without defensiveness?

Posted: June 15, 2011

When I was in graduate school, we studied the concepts put forth by one of my professors, Don Schon, urging us to become “reflective practitioners”.  The term is fairly self-explanatory—easy to define, harder to achieve.  As someone who grew up professionally without a real mentor (no offense to those from whom I have learned—and there are many—but never in the traditional mentor-mentee role) I have always felt that the only way to grow and develop was through self reflection.  I practice this regularly. The cycles of the Jewish calendar have helped, with the built-in weekly Sabbaths and annual high holiday cycle.  But honest critique benefits from external input as well, and this is a challenge—even moreso as you rise up hierarchies.

According to Don, learning organizations are collectively self-reflective which depends on honest and open communications.  I hope modeling such behavior can help, but I suspect more is required.  It’s so natural to be either defensive or overly apologetic about mistakes, as if the goal of any look back is to dismiss it as quickly as possible, rather than learn the most you can.  We just had two successful happenings—the annual gala and the opening of a new community—both are good stories, both with opportunities to learn.

I want to foster a culture of honest reflection—to learn from every experience.  I’ve been in this job a little over nine months—time for a pregnant pause (!)—and I have learned a lot about what makes JCHE tick.  I have some ideas about where we’ve been able to move things along and where blockages occur, but there is more wisdom to be gleaned from people in all parts of the organization if I can find a way to capture it.  Building a team committed to honest and open communication is key along with creating an environment where learning is not risky.  Please share your thoughts and suggestions!

Warmly,

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Comment by Steve Steinberg | 06/15/2011

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment”

Cicero