The specialists' ‘scientific’ methods of inquiry have come under increasing attack as overly deterministic, incapable of dealing with elusive and ambiguous phenomena, inappropriately focused on what is rather than what can be, and less powerful in dealing with strategic rather than tactical issues. One way of finding relief from these problems is to adopt more holistic and intuitive approaches (22,26). Another is to simultaneously use more than one method of inquiry in the hope that the strengths of one perspective will help illuminate and compensate for weaknesses or gaps in others. The advantage of multiple methods is that together they may expand the scope of inquiry and the complexity of problem representations and solutions. A basic question, however, is whether (or how) it is possible for the single individual to suspend the categorizing of normal perception and use genuinely different modes of inquiry. This question is discussed in terms of debate in the philosophy of science between Popper (25), Kuhn (17,18), Feyerabend (14,15), and Toulmin (31). The original draft of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, San Francisco, August 1978. I have profited from several people's comments on that draft, especially Richard Mason's, and from the advice of several anonymous reviewers. The paper ultimately suggests that the very discussion of alternative modes of scientific inquiry and the nature of human perception increases our ability to use more than one mode of inquiry successfully. A set of rules for what is called ‘multilectic’ (‘multi-lensed’) approaches is outlined. Multilectic methods of inquiry can be of great importance to those interested in human systems management. They offer a complex way of creating and representing knowledge about complex and even incommensurate situations. Of particular importance is the emphasis on using one perspective to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of others. This feature offers a way of bridging between (though not always synthesizing) logical, rational, sequential and quantitative (LRSQ) ways of understanding management situations, and perceptive, intuitive, simultaneous and qualitative (PISQ) ways of looking at the same issue (33).
Human Systems Management – IOS Press
Published: Jan 1, 1981
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