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The Importance of Reflection for Personal and Professional Development

“Reflection” is a deliberate and rigorous way of thinking about one’s experiences and interactions with others. It is purposeful: It enables a person to make sense of his or her experiences and to surface causes and consequences that are essential for learning and personal development. Reflection is not mere stream of consciousness. Moreover, it can—and should—be challenging. Effective reflection calls for curiosity, open-mindedness, honesty, responsibility, directness, and even optimism.

In general, such reflection explores answers to four key questions:

  1. What?
    • What happened? What is the topic of the reflection? What did you do, feel and/or see?
  2. Why?
    • Why did it happen? What are the reasons for what you experienced or observed?
  3. So what?
    • Why is this experience worth reflection? Why does it matter? What are the consequences and meanings of your experience or observation?
  4. Now what?
    • What are you going to do as a result of the experience or observation? What concrete actions can you take to make a positive difference in the future?

"Why is so much emphasis on reflection in this course?", you may ask. In this article - The Rewards of CEO Reflection (Links to an external site.) - four senior leaders at BCG examine the value of reflection. Their reasoning doesn't just apply to executives. In fact, one might argue that the capacity for reflection needs to be developed and turned into a habit early in one's life and career to reap its benefits. 

For this reflection, consider – in a deep, meaningful way – what has stuck with you from this course and how you can apply these ideas, concepts, and techniques to make a positive leadership difference in your career or life. You may reflect on any concepts and ideas introduced in class or in the materials, but bear in mind that the purpose of this reflection is not to describe or summarize them. The purpose is to explore and think more deeply about how you can develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to become an effective future leader. 

  • Different possible formats: 3 options (choose one)
    • paper/document (≤ 1000 words, do not write in bullet format)
    • video file (≤ 4 mins.)
    • audio file/podcast (≤ 4 mins.)

Note: The video/audio options are opportunities for you to be creative in ways beyond the written word, but the evaluation criteria are the same (see below).

  • Very good reflection papers: examine personal insights, challenge one’s own assumptions, and address the tensions inherent in deep-level learning.
  • Creativity that enhances the reflection is welcome in any of the formats, but do not include creative elements just for the sake of creativity.
  • Avoid simple “action lists” (e.g., “The 7 Things I Need to Do as a Leader”) and “stream of consciousness” delivery.
  • Do not feel compelled to answer all of the questions you raise in your reflection. Asking new, interesting questions can be more valuable than having all the answers. Moreover, questions signal curiosity and a continued desire to learn.

This assignment is a component of your Learning and Development Portfolio (LDP). The LDP consists of a number of deliverables over the course of the semester and represents your development journey - from past experience to current learning to future development - through the course and beyond.

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