Working Out Loud is a Powerful Reflection Method

This week I joined a 702010 Forum Community of Practice teleconference where one of the participants discussed how she uses voice dictation to reflect.  She uses Siri on her iPhone to  translate voice to text notes. I have two blocks of at least 30 minutes per day when I walk my dog, and voice dictation may be viable during these times. This would give me a written record of my reflections, and potentially material for blog posts.

This post is based on my first attempt at dictating a reflection. I used Dragon Dictation on my phone. I find it accurately transcribes my dictation and exports the text easily to a range of tools / platforms.  I’ve transferred it to Evernote by emailing to my Evernote email address.  Another alternative is to copy and paste from Dragon to other software where it can be edited.

Another technique I’d like to try is a short reflection method called the “5 in 5” technique which I heard about from the Curve Group at the Australian Institute of Training and Development 2015 national conference. The idea is to generate ideas for small improvements (5%) in a short time (5 minutes).  You simply answer three questions: (1) What? (2) So what (3) Now what?  I dictated my road test of the technique to identify how I could improve my reflection practices.  Then I expanded on this short reflection to create a blog post.

Photo courtesy of Snapwire

Photo courtesy of Snapwire


Reflection is one of my personal learning tools.  It helps me to identify what is working well and what I could improve. I currently reflect by:

(1) Thinking things through in my head, which is efficient and mobile.  I can make observations and extract learning on the go.  However, I can get a little lost and go around in circles.  Depending on whether the responses or feedback of others enter into my thoughts, it may only be my point of view that I’m considering, which can limit the range and quality of insights.  I am also left without a record of my reflection for later use.

(2) Talking with others and engaging in reflection either intentionally or in the natural flow of conversation. Asking others for feedback can be done in many ways (e.g. “What are you happy about with this piece of work?”  “How do you think we/I could be making better progress?”  “How else could we/I improve on what we are doing?” “What would we (could I) do differently next time?”).  Different points of view arise. Talking helps me to discover and clarify my thoughts (it’s not unusual for me to be unsure what I am about to say when I start talking), so I find this method of reflection very effective.  There is also a level of accountability to take action on improvement opportunities I’ve generated with someone else.  Depending on the action I take I may have a record or artefact as an output of the reflection.

(3) Interacting with others online, e.g. by commenting on blog posts or via Twitter.  While it doesn’t give me the same direct feedback as talking with people I am working with, it provides opportunity to consider my own practices in comparison to theirs and identify adjustments or new approaches I could try.  Diversity and difference can yield ideas, insights and resources that help me to innovate.  If the idea is powerful enough I will make a note of it or add it to a task list to follow up.

(4) Writing a personal reflection in a journal I maintain on Evernote, accessible any time that I have a computer or device.  However, I sometimes prefer privacy when I am writing (no prying eyes on the bus!).  I also need to slow down and be still for long enough to write.  If I write soon enough after reflecting using the methods above I can quickly capture insights that I can elaborate on later.  Even if I don’t manage to elaborate my notes, the brief points can trigger my memory and further insights if I refer back to them.

(5)  Writing blog posts, and delivering presentations (e.g. webinars, conferences).  Knowing that this content will be shared publicly I document my reflection more thoroughly, providing context and thinking about key opportunities and lessons for both myself and others.  It provides a more complete record of where I have been, what I have learned, and where I am headed.  While I take care to present honestly and authentically, there are times when I omit some things out of respect for others, commercial confidentiality (which is far less of an issue than people sometimes imagine), or privacy for myself.  Working Out Loud so openly increases the accountability I feel to follow through on any improvements or next steps I commit to.  It’s a way of stretching myself.  However, this method of reflection takes a lot more time than any other that I use; and I am far less likely to do it if I am busy.  This is particularly true of blog posts where I don’t have a deadline to meet.

So What?

After writing the ‘What’ response I identified factors that differentiate these reflection methods for me and used them to rate each of method, as per the table below.  The first four factors have been discussed above. I added the fifth, ‘likelihood of use,’ to reflect how strong my current habits and triggers are to reflect using each method.

Reflection Rating

An interesting aspect of this road test of both voice dictation and ‘5 in 5’ is that as I edited the dictation transcript to prepare this blog post my insights deepened and shifted.  I have expanded my dictated text significantly, resequenced it, and added new ideas.  Nonetheless, dictating my initial reflection gave me a head start on this post and enabled me to write it quicker than if I had started with a blank sheet of paper. In many ways the combination of these two methods illustrates what the ratings in the table indicate – that all of these methods have a place in my reflection toolkit.

While I find reflecting privately efficient, the quality of my reflection and depth of my learning is greater when I Work Out Loud.  While this may seem obvious, I had not realised how much more effective Working Out Loud was as a reflection tool for me than more private methods.  If you are new to the idea of Working Out Loud you may find value in Sahana Chattopadhyay’s post Working Out Loud 101/Some Thoughts.

Now What?

My commitment to Working Out Loud has increased as a result of this reflection.  However, the reality is that life gets busy and it can be challenging to find time to blog and prepare presentations.  I shall use my dog walks as a trigger to reflect and capture key ideas into my Evernote journal using Dragon Dictation.  This shall provide source material for deeper reflection when I do have capacity.

I have missed blogging in the past two months as I have had a number of presentations to deliver.  I shall ‘catch up’ on blog posts by sharing content from these presentations, have another big push to finish the remaining 5 posts for the Social Learning Practitioner Program, then look through my journal for inspiration for future posts.


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