Four Questions to Self-Review Your Innovation

In an unfortunate nod to the white male stereotype - I’m also a bit of a golf fan. I’ve never had lessons, but enjoy walking 18 holes with a few friends, in the elusive pursuit of breaking 100.

One day, my friend decided to secretly film my golf swing using the slow-motion feature of his iPhone. I swung. He filmed. The ball went into the lake.

He then brought the phone over to show me my golf swing.

I was horrified.

What I thought was a silky-smooth, Tiger-Woods-esque power swing of beauty - was instead a jerky, multi-moving, awkward-looking spasm of my body. I was surprised I managed to hit the ball.

As painful as it was to watch the video - it was also incredibly helpful. I noticed how much my feet were moving at impact, and how my head was floating around like an excited balloon. It gave me a couple of tips to focus on - and made a small, but real, impact on my golf.

In 2012, researchers from Louisiana State University decided to test how important self-review was to sporting success. They devised an incredibly simple - and fun - experiment to test the impact of self-reflection on sport.

They gathered a sample of 28 women, who had no experience playing basketball. The women were randomly split into two groups. Both groups watched an instructional video, teaching them the seven key features of a basketball set shot.

Then, they were separated, and each women was given a basketball and a hoop. They were instructed to shoot.

One group was being filmed - and could request a video playback of their previous shot, at any time they wanted.

The other group was also being filmed - but would only be shown feedback of their previous shot at random intervals.

The group shot 25 balls each - then came the next day to test their retention and learning.

The results?

At first, both groups results were remarkably similar. But, as the test went on - the group that could request video feedback at any time - began to improve their form, and their results - at a remarkably quicker rate than the other group.

And - one the next day - the group that could request video playback at any time had significantly higher scores than the other group.

Why?

Because when we review ourselves, we learn and change. It’s that simple.

As part of my consultancy work, I conduct one-on-one interviews with a large cross-section of an organisation. The primary reason for this is investigatory - I’m looking to discover how innovation is happening, and what is blocking it from going further.

But I’ve noticed another outcome from these interviews - that surprised me at first.

90% of the time - the participants thank me for the interview, and remark about how incredibly helpful it’s been. They say they can’t wait to get back to work, and implement some changes.

At first, I was perplexed. What had happened?

All I was doing was asking them questions - recording their answers, and acting like a toddler - repeatedly asking “Why?” - to ensure I was getting to the heart of their experience.

But over the course of the 30 minutes, each person was also getting a chance to reflect on their practices. Suddenly, they were looking at themselves and their work, reflecting on their high and low points - and discovering latent learnings that they could begin straight away.

I was creating a space for self-reflection. As they reflected - they were learning, and improving.

Research done at Harvard Business School in 2014 supports my experience. The researchers discovered that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect.

When was the last time you took 15 minutes to self-review your performance?

It’s highly likely you won’t end up doing this accidentally. Leaders must book in 15 minute blocks to self-review - at the end of the day, or end of the week.

Four questions that can help guide your self-review around your leadership of innovation are:

  1. How did I engage with problems this week?
  2. How have I captured and shared ideas for improvement this week?
  3. How have I encouraged my co-workers to collaborate on our problems?
  4. What could I have done differently to grow our business this week?

Simple questions - but if you take 15 minutes with them and a journal - you’ll start to see ongoing, sustainable improvement to your innovation ability.

Don’t just know about it - try and put this in action - and let me know your favourite self-review questions as you go.