A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation of Reflective Practices in High Tech Organizations

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Virginia Tech


The practice of reflection on experience has been called a best practice for learning in organizations. Researchers have extensively studied the impacts of reflection on experience on improving productivity in areas of health and education. The results of these studies have shown that reflection on experience by individuals is indeed effective in enhancing practitioners' performance in the field. There has not, however, been much research on the process of reflection on experience by employees of organizations. This dissertation focused on enhancing the understanding of the process, structure, and underlying mechanisms of reflection on experience by employees in the high tech organizational environments. This dissertation is a multi-phase study. First, the systematic process of employee reflective practices in organizations was investigated by reviewing the literature, and a theoretical six-factor structure was proposed. Second, a literature-based assessment instrument was designed and administered, leading to the collection of data from 354 employees of different U.S.-based technology organizations. Third, an exploratory factor analysis extracted the empirical factor structure of reflective practices and contrasted it to the proposed theoretical construct. The collected data entailed demographic data, employee satisfaction, and teamwork perceptions as independent variables, where the reflective practices were the dependent variables. Regression analysis of the data highlighted associations between reflective practices and employee satisfaction, teamwork, as well as some of the collected demographic data. Finally, in the fourth phase, a system dynamics approach was applied to develop the first literature-based causal loop diagram of systematic reflective practices in organizations that shed light on reasons behind the failure of organizations to reflect. This study produced the first empirical factor structure of reflective practices, and an assessment instrument to explore the reflective practices of high-tech organizations. In addition, this study examined associations between reflective practices and employee and organizational characteristics. Finally, it provides a causal loop diagram that maps the mechanisms that reinforce or impede the practice of reflection on experience in organizations. This diagram can be used as a roadmap and a guide to improve and increase practitioners' reflective practices.



Management, corporations, organizational learning, improvement, Performance, outcomes, mental models