Why reflecting on progress is key to a culture of innovation



In her book, The Progress Principle, creativity and innovation researcher Teresa Amabile shares the following:

A sense of making progress on meaningful work was the single most important factor in igniting creativity, satisfaction, and productivity among employees—far more than factors like monetary compensation, praise, or camaraderie.”

In the organizations I work with, I’ve observed that leaders and their teams are more likely to be focused on the next thing on their to-do list and less likely to be reflecting on their accomplishments. This is unfortunate, because by not taking the time to reflect on accomplishments, people develop a sense of overwhelm and a concern that they’re not getting enough done.

By developing a practice of reflection on our progress—in addition to staring down a never-ending to-do list—we find opportunities to appreciate how far we’ve come. Reflection on accomplishments also allows us to course correct in ways that might save us effort going forward.  And, as Amabile’s research has shown, recognition of progress also contributes towards more creative, happy, and productive workplaces.

At BridgePoint Effect, when we teach creativity and innovation skills, we do two things to help teams make sense of where they are and the progress they’re making. First, we introduce the creativity skill mindfulness and then a creative thinking tool called “Learning Cycle.”

Mindfulness is one of the more important creativity skills. It reminds us to attend to thoughts and feelings relative to the present situation. Mindfulness is critical to our ability to diagnose a situation and make choices about next steps.

Learning Cycle helps a team build new habits to use as part of a reflective thinking practice by asking four questions:

  1. What’s working well?
  2. What should we be doing differently?
  3. What have we learned or relearned?
  4. What learnings shall we apply next time?

…or more simply:  What? So what? Now what?

A reflective thinking practice is key to building creativity skills and fostering a culture of innovation. It takes time to develop these skills, but it’s worth the investment and the rewards are sweet.

Learn more about how BridgePoint Effect can help you bring clarity, creativity, and action to innovation in your organization.

Our team-building workshops, ThinkUP Innovation Framework, and Breakthrough Thinking course are three ways to get started.


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