Paul Plsek & Associates
The art of temporarily detaching oneself from a
situation in order to think clearly about it, assign interpretation and meaning to the
situation, and draw out deeper learnings.
Reflection is a natural part of any learning.
Whether we think about it or not, things happen all around us, and will simply continue to
happen. However, if we think about them - reflect on them, learn from them - we might see
patterns in the events around us that help us better understand what is going on. Without
reflection, we remain hapless victims (or, if we are lucky, hapless beneficiaries) of
events. With reflection, we can begin to modify our actions and expectations and,
potentially, have a more constructive impact on future events. While it could be argued
that reflection is what everyone does naturally every minute of the day, what we are
talking about here is a conscious and purposeful effort that builds capacity for more
effective action on the part of the individual or group participating in the reflection.
The basic action of
reflection is to ask questions such as:
As a matter of style, some people prefer to
reflect by themselves, while others prefer to reflect in conversation with others. Both
modes are useful and neither should be used to the exclusion of the other. Individuals who
prefer to reflect by themselves will benefit greatly from seeing the points of view and
mental models of others. On the other hand, those who can only reflect in conversation
with others may not be developing sufficient self-reflective skills for use in situations
when immediate action is needed.
Three Kinds of Reflection
We can speak of at least three different types of
The modern concept of reflective learning can be traced
to philosopher John Dewey, and was further developed by several others. For example,
reflection is the "Study" phase of the Shewhart-Deming cycle of
The entire Tales of Complexity section is an
illustration of reflection. There are examples of all three types of reflection, as well
as both individual and group reflection. Some of the Tales also directly illustrate the
value of multiple lenses, in that various people have offered their reflections. The Tales
cited in the margin illustrate the direct use of this aide as part of an evolving context.
Copyright © 2001, Paul E. Plsek