Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2414478
 


 



Learning by Thinking: Overcoming the Bias for Action through Reflection


Giada Di Stefano


HEC Paris - Strategy & Business Policy

Francesca Gino


Harvard University - Harvard Business School

Gary P. Pisano


Harvard Business School

Bradley R. Staats


University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

March 29, 2015

Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 14-093
Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 14-093

Abstract:     
Research on learning has primarily focused on the role of doing (experience) in fostering progress over time. Drawing on literature in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, we propose that one of the critical components of learning is reflection, or the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. In particular, we argue that purposeful reflection on one’s accumulated experience leads to greater learning than the accumulation of additional experience. We explain this boost in learning through self-efficacy: reflection builds confidence in the ability to achieve a goal, which in turn translates into higher rates of learning. We test the resulting model experimentally, using a mixed-method design that combines two laboratory experiments with a field experiment conducted in a large business-process outsourcing company in India. We find that individuals who are given time to reflect on a task improve their performance at a greater rate than those who are given the same amount of time to practice with the same task. Our results also show that if individuals themselves are given the choice to either reflect or practice, they prefer to allocate their time to gaining more experience with the task – to the detriment of their learning.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

Keywords: learning by thinking, reflection, knowledge creation, learning, self-efficacy


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Date posted: March 26, 2014 ; Last revised: May 12, 2015

Suggested Citation

Di Stefano, Giada and Gino, Francesca and Pisano, Gary P. and Staats, Bradley R., Learning by Thinking: Overcoming the Bias for Action through Reflection (March 29, 2015). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 14-093; Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 14-093. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2414478 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2414478

Contact Information

Giada Di Stefano (Contact Author)
HEC Paris (Groupe HEC) - Strategy & Business Policy ( email )
Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, 78351
France
+33139679615 (Phone)
+33139677084 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.hec.edu/Faculty-and-Research/Faculty/DI-STEFANO

Francesca Gino
Harvard University - Harvard Business School ( email )
Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States
Gary Pisano
Harvard Business School ( email )
Technology & Operations Management Unit
Morgan Hall
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6562 (Phone)
617-496-5265 (Fax)
Bradley R. Staats
University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School ( email )
McColl Building, CB#3490
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

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