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  • Roz Duffy

Book Review: Experiments in Reflection by Leticia Britos Cavagnaro

How can reflection help you not just look back on your past worklife, but better understand the present and shape your future worklife? In Experiments in Reflection, Stanford professor Leticia Britos Cavagnaro brings her expertise as a scientist-turned-designer to the art of reflection.  


Psst: Author Leticia Britos Cavagnaro will be joining us to discuss Experiments in Reflection at our next MeaningSphere Book Club on Thursday, May 30 at 12 pm EDT. Reading is not required. Reserve your free place here.  

The book Experiments in Reflection next to a coffee and notebook.
Image courtesy of Stanford guides and Ten Speed Press

When the opportunity to review the Stanford guide Experiments in Reflection by professor Leticia Britos Cavagnaro arose, my hand shot up faster than you can say “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” (Had to insert a Back to the Future reference). I jumped at the chance to dive into the transformative practice of reflection to explore how it can help others find greater meaning and purpose in their work. 

(Plus, I already owned the entire collection of slim paperbacks created by Stanford’s design school to help you think like a designer, known as guides. Yes, they’re that good!) 

As someone who is excited about creativity and how that connects to meaningful work, I was curious how Experiments in Reflection might help me develop some new insights. I love the idea of self-reflection and reflecting with teams through activities like retrospectives. I think there’s always something to learn by taking the time to look back and learn. As it turns out, reflection is not just about looking back, but also an opportunity to be in the present moment and a process that can help you shape the future. 

Man sitting on chair in front of window with sunlight shining through
Photo by Bethany Legg on Unsplash

Leticia Britos Cavagnaro has assembled an inspiring collection of experiments that will help you see reflection in a new and more thoughtful way. With her unique perspective as a scientist-turned-designer, she brings both method and creativity to the art of reflection.  

Experiments in Reflection is filled with vibrant collage illustrations from artist Gabriela Sánchez. This adds a playful and imaginative vibe as you move through the book, offering inspiration at every page turn. 

Britos Cavagnaro became interested in reflection as a practice from her first experience as a teacher, where she noticed students often came to school in a passive mode, being told what to do and think. She proposes that by cultivating the habit of reflection, individuals can take ownership of their lives, unlock new opportunities, and make meaningful connections through the power of imagination and reflection.  

The book is divided into three collections: Notice, Make Sense, and Envision.  

A woman reading a book while sitting on a bench
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

The first section, Notice, is all about tuning into the present moment and sensing the world around you and the emotions you experience in it. The second, Make Sense, invites you to look deeper into situations and scenarios from everyday life. Finally, Envision is all about looking towards the future, offering helpful tools and visualizations to get you excited to innovate as well as tap into a wider perspective encompassing personal legacy and impact on the greater world. 

Each section contains four experiments with their own hypothesis and method, followed up with an assessment prompt using a tool introduced at the beginning of the book, the “Insight-o-meter”, to help you gauge how meaningfully the experiment impacted your thinking. 

Britos Cavagnaro suggests moving through the experiments on your own first. All you need to get started is a pen and paper. I found it helpful to use Mural, a virtual whiteboard, to organize my thoughts.  

Person writing on brown wooden table next to white mug
Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

I loved immersing myself in the reflections, and I would highly recommend this book for a personal day of reflection, especially if you are in a place of transition and wanting to explore new possibilities in your career or work life.  

It’s a tough choice to pick which experiments had the biggest impact because, in many ways, they all did (plus I don’t want to give away the whole book.) I think some of the standouts for me were the following: 

  • Figure Out Who You Are, Really”—an opportunity to reflect on the different adjectives and identities that strangers, people I’m close to, and just me would be aware of. Moving through concentric circles and landing in my own inner circle of solitary reflection helped me see what is most sacred to me, and it made me a little curious about what, if anything, I could bring forward. 

  • Climb the Ladder of Meaning”—I’ve recently learned about abstraction laddering, so I was excited to try it out on myself. This mind map helped me explore a concrete goal and expand it into the abstract, all while unpacking the “how” in each step. 

  • Reflect Foward”—Based on the Futures Wheel, this experiment helped me explore a world where my laptop does not exist (you get to choose, but that’s what I chose!) Reflecting on the potential futures of a worklife without a laptop, I was able to explore the first order and second order (and so on) consequences of such a change. Enlightening to say the least! 

Everyone's experience will be different. Some activities felt familiar to me, while others took me into new territory and stunning a-ha moments. You'll find lots of ideas for experiments in this book that will help you reflect on a personal level, but many will work in teams, groups, and workplaces. Reflecting with others will allow you to get to know your peers more and help you tap into your creativity and imagination. 

With its unique blend of science, art, and practical guidance, Experiments in Reflection is a great guide for exploring your life's journey either on your own or with others. Whether you pick one experiment at random, focus on a collection, or do the whole thing, it is sure to help you uncover fresh insights about yourself as you navigate your meaningful work journey. 


Want to learn more? Author Leticia Britos Cavagnaro will be joining us to discuss Experiments in Reflection at our next MeaningSphere Book Club on Thursday, May 30 at 12 pm EDT. Reading is not required. Register here

Download your free reflection guide at our Resources page


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