When should you move quickly and when should you pause to reflect?
Action, then reflection. It’s the peanut butter & jelly sandwich of design work: one without the other just doesn’t make sense.
If you want to move fast, but not break things, try balancing bursts of action with time to slow down, and reflect. Many know that time constraints can help improve the quality of rapid prototyping; less understood, but well documented, is the extraordinary value of active reflection practices for teams and individuals seeking to innovate, learn, or simply get better at their jobs. And for all the daydreamers out there, check out the paper here on the relationship between mind wandering and creativity!
Commentary from the d.school
For us, design is a learning process. Our students tend to learn best when we push them to experiment rapidly, then take time to step back, and reflect. The same is true for design in practice—some decisions require quick tests, others need room to digest and take form.
A scholar’s perspective
The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think In Action
Donald A. Schön, Basic Books, Inc., 1986
Improvise and reflect: a unique theory of problem solving
This study of professionals (including engineers, architects, managers, and therapists) seeks to understand how professionals problem solve and learn. Schön explains a concept called “reflection-in-action,” meaning improvising and thinking on your feet. “Reflection-on-action” happens after coming to a solution or finishing a task. His conclusion? Reflection-in-action is its own form of experimentation practiced by the best professionals.
The Efficacy of Prototyping Under Time Constraints
Steven P. Dow, Kate Heddleston, Scott R. Klemmer, Creativity & Cognition, 2009
Making it quick: iteration works under a time crunch
Under time constraints, participants who iterated multiple times, and tested these iterations, performed better on a problem-solving task than those who spent longer on one version. The effect of iterating is strong: even those without prior task experience did better in the iteration condition than those with prior task experience in the non-iteration condition.
Inspired by Distraction: Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation
Benjamin Baird, Jonathan Smallwood, Michael D. Mrazek, Julia W. Y. Kam, Michael S. Franklin and Jonathan W. Schooler in Psychological Science, 2012
Wandering to a solution: the case for getting distracted
This study explores how an active mental break unrelated to the task at hand might improve creative performance. Participants completed a classic creativity task and interspersed their work with different types of breaks. Those who did a simple mental activity in between work spurts reported greater mind wandering and did best on their creative task. These mind-wanderers outperformed those who completed a demanding activity or simply took a full break.
Multiple Tasks' and Multiple Goals' Effect on Creativity: Forced Incubation or Just a Distraction?
Nora Madjar, Christina E. Shalley in Journal of Management, 2008
Switching between tasks (and their goals) aids creativity
The study uses three tasks to explore whether multiple goals across those tasks elevates creative performance. Participants who could choose what tasks they worked on and when—and set goals for all three—did best. Even if it seems like a lot to juggle, setting goals and giving permission to toggle between them may boost performance.
The reflective practice of design teams.
Rianne Valkenburg, Kees Dorst in Design Studies, 1998
How reflection surfaces our next move
During an observation of teams during a design challenge, researchers inventoried how teams spent their time. They had four main areas of activity: naming, framing, moving, and reflecting. Reflecting throughout the challenge could move teams quickly to their next action, asking questions such as: What did we learn? or What was important?
Team Reflexivity and Innovation: The Moderating Role of Team Context
Michaéla C. Schippers, Michael A. West, Jeremy F. Dawson in Journal of Management, 2012
Why a team that works together, should reflect together
Team reflexivity is the act of deliberate collective reflection on how a team is working. This study of 98 health care teams examined the practice and effect of team reflexivity on innovation. The findings suggest that team reflexivity is linked to team innovation. Reasons why might include discovery of models and adaptations shared across the group, that allow teams to better learn and develop.
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