Does Individual Reflection Enhance Creative Thinking?
A growing body of evidence suggests that reflecting on performance is an important source of learning and may improve task performance. Given the importance of creativity in contemporary business settings, both practitioners and researchers have casted reflection also as a useful strategy for facilitating creative processes such as divergent thinking. Challenging this assumption, the present study examined the effects of reflection on divergent thinking. Drawing from theory and findings in cognitive psychology on knowledge structures, we argue that reflection may debilitate rather than improve divergent thinking, due to the reinforcement of existing cognitive schemas that reflection evokes. To better understand this potential negative effect of reflection on divergent thinking, we tested an alternative reflection strategy, consisting of contrasting the actual state of affairs with an imaginative reality. The results of an experimental study in a sample of working employees showed a negative effect of reflection on divergent thinking as compared to reflection on task irrelevant information. However, when an imaginative reflection component was added, the negative effect of reflection on divergent thinking disappeared. Together, these findings increase our understanding of the underlying cognitive processes of reflection and suggest new strategies to improve reflection in organizations.