But the Munster forward also accepts that six difficult weeks in All Blacks country has provided "a big jolt" for the players who suffered a 3-0 Test series whitewash.
New Zealand will embark on a Grand Slam tour in the autumn, facing Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland, which offers an acid test of just how much Woodward's players learnt from their Lions experience.
"We've had a big jolt," said O'Connell, among a handful of tourists who started all three Tests in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
"I don't know if we will go home better players, but we will have higher standards. New Zealand are setting a very high standard in everything.
"I think sometimes in the past their set-piece play wasn't that outstanding, but it has gone to a very high level now and they are putting it together with some seriously outstanding backs.
"When New Zealand get stuck in a rigid game-plan, they struggle, but when they play like they've played the last few games and play what they see in front of them, they are just so hard to beat.
"They've really raised the standard, and a lot of us will be bringing that home to our provinces and our clubs."
He added: "Every time an Irish player faces New Zealand we have a chance to create a bit of history because we've never beaten them before.
"Ireland have a particularly good batch of players at the moment. It would be very bad if we didn't take advantage of it.
"All this knowledge, the experience we have gained from this tour is important. There were seven Irish players involved in the (third Test) 22, so it will make a difference."
O'Connell also has no doubt that the Lions concept will prevail, despite increasing challenges in terms of preparation time posed by rugby's professional era.
"Someone has to win," he said. "If we had won the series 3-0, people would be looking at the All Blacks. Someone has to win, and unfortunately, we weren't up to it this time.
"The (Lions) challenge is getting tougher and tougher as the game becomes more professional, more structured and more rehearsed. That's just the beauty of the challenge.
"Clive tried something different to try and pull it off this time, and it didn't work. Maybe in four years' time (South Africa), they will try something different again."