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Can Keeping a Journal Make You a Better Leader?

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

Can keeping a journal make you a better leader?

That's what Dan Ciampa argues in a 2017 Harvard Business Review article.

As Ciampa notes, "There’s strong evidence that replaying events in our brain is essential to learning. While the brain records and holds what takes place in the moment, the learning from what one has gone through—that is, determining what is important and what lessons should be learned—happens after the fact during periods of quiet reflection."

Moreover, "when we slow things down and reflect, we can be more creative about solving seemingly inscrutable problems. "

In other words, the "structured reflection" enabled by journal-keeping is not only a way of better remembering what we've experienced; it's also a way of processing it, learning from it, engaging in creative problem-solving, and mentally preparing for future experiences and similar problems.

Ciampa emphasizes journal-keeping as a particularly effective tool for CEOs and other organizational leaders, whose job, he notes, can be a lonely one.

But CEOs aren't the only people who can benefit from structured reflection, nor is journal-keeping the only way of doing that.

A probing, in-depth interview, one rooted in deep research, can elicit thoughtful reflection on lessons learned and roads not taken. And collective, structured reflection—a process that combines multiple individual memories set down in journals, interviews, and elsewhere—can do the same for an organization as a whole. Indeed, by weaving together multiple people's retrospective insights and perspectives, collective reflection can leverage the sum total of experience across an organization.

Arielle Gorin is a Saybrook Senior Consultant. She is currently at work on a multigenerational family history and a research study for a leading tech firm. This post originally appeared on Saybrook's LinkedIn page.


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