Six top tips for successful cognitive thinking in the workplace

David Wells
May 12, 2021

Metacognition, or the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes, can help solve strategic and everyday issues in a business. Acquiring new information and skills, identifying opportunities, and making decisions are all important elements in the executive’s arsenal for tackling problems effectively. Embracing metacognition, and learning how to learn, is also key to develop a growth mindset.

Much has been written about metacognition and the neuroscience behind it, about framing the ‘learning-to-learn’ challenge and creating the ‘learning journey’. Executives motivated to develop effective learning behaviours in their professional lives need these techniques to help them plan, monitor, and evaluate their executive learning.

In our recent Headspring report, Metacognition at work, we dig in deeper on how we learn in the workplace, and what can be done to enhance our learning.

Companies have an important role to play here: enlisting learning & development, human resources, line managers, and corporate leaders to foster a culture of learning and deep metacognitive practices within the organisation. So what are some practical tips to enhance employee’s metacognition in the workplace?

How to improve metacognition in the workplace

  1. Schedule your learning journey. Set aside a few moments each day devoted to reflecting on what you’re learning, how it’s going, whether you need to make changes, and planning what you will learn next.
  2. Accept that failure isn’t the end. It’s not final, it’s a step on the road to something better. Making your workplace one where it’s safe – and permissible – to fail will let you and your colleagues think creatively.
  3. Take effective breaks. While you’re working, it’s right to focus intensely. But after 45 minutes or an hour, give yourself (and others) a reward for not having been distracted, and let that information have time to sink in.
  4. Banish empty corporate language by speaking in stories. When you need to make a highly complex issue clearer, use analogies and metaphors in communications as a means to engage others. However, imagery must be carefully considered so that it clarifies rather than confuses your point.
  5. Seek out contradictory information and viewpoints. Our cognitive biases make us give too much weight to issues that confirm our existing views. Ask yourself when you adopted a position, and where you got your views. It might be time to rethink what you’re working on now.
  6. Act it out in your corporate setting. When an intellectual-led approach fails, games, activities and roleplaying can provide new perspectives that work at an emotional level.

Want to read more? Download the Metacogntion at work report.

David Wells

Writer and communications consultant