“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
One of my very favorite movies is The Matrix. In the Matrix, the hero is seeking something that he knows exists but does not quite understand. When he finally encounters what it is, the experience is overwhelming. Once all becomes clear about the world around him, his purpose comes into focus and he knows what he must do. Everything before seems like a dream, because it was. The reality of the world is a bit colder, a bit less comfortable and more dangerous however, armed with his purpose and a focused committed team he goes on to take on the mission.
While the aim here is certainly not to claim likeness to Neo, there is however a sense of similarity in understanding what Reflective Logic is. Let’s look at one of the best quotes from the movie:
“Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”
This quote, like the one that introduced the post, contains profound insight in very few words. Interestingly, there is a curious connection here. A certain harmony exists in combining the message of the Kierkegaard quote with the story of the Matrix. That harmony is what Reflective Logic is like.
Reflective Logic is like that time you looked back on a series of events to understand something about the present and what to do about the future in similar circumstances. This does not mean that we always repeat the actions of the past when faced with the same circumstances. What it means is that we look back and do some sensemaking out of what we experienced.
We look back and we seek to understand how we arrived where we are now. We do some experiments to attempt to recreate and understand how things work. We reflect on our past experiences, our points of origin, the reasons behind our decisions and the alignment of intentions and outcomes. We are seeking the reasons things happened. Think of a cross between a forensics investigator and a miner. This is what Reflective Logic can be like.
Throughout any discovery process we are learning immensely. We are learning about the past, we are learning about decisions and we are learning about how we work. Learning and understanding are treasures to be had. Their value however is not necessarily in their place in the past. Value is in their place in the future.
With our treasure of understanding in tow, we can look to the future. We are looking into that which does not yet exist. Our actions and our decisions will shape what the future becomes. We will be part of creating the next past. So, what kind of future would we like to create?
This is where Reflective Logic can be encountered. A reflection is usually directed back in time however, we know that history repeats by observing it. There is nothing preventing us from reflecting forward. Some might call that envisioning. Others might call that imagination.
With forward reflection, we stand on a treasure of understanding and using that as raw intellectual material, we create the form of the future we want. We can look at similar past circumstances and decide to create an environment for like conditions to reoccur and we can create environments for variation on desirable themes. Similarly, we can create mitigations for those future conditions that we would like to avoid.
When we reflect backwards, we gain clarity and focus about where we have been, why we were there and how we got there. When we reflect forwards, we originate from a point of clarity which enables us to think more clearly about our intended destination and the necessary elements of success which will make it possible. Like in the movie, this realization, while possibly uncomfortable, will help to solidify and focus our purpose and our mission. It is this focused energy that drives us forward to the destination we intend. This is what Reflective Logic can be like.
So now, hopefully, we all understand a bit more about what Reflective Logic is like. At this time, Reflective Logic has no concrete definition. It is not a methodology. There are no lists of steps. You do not ‘do’ Reflective Logic. Reflective Logic is like the Matrix. Unfortunately, you cannot be told what it is but, you will know it when you see it.