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Truth and Five Ways of Thinking Published: Wednesday, July 1, 1998 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

Crazy wisemen, such as Mitroff, Churchman, Ackoff and Landau point to five archetypal ways of thinking and reaching decisions:

  • Expert Consensus;
  • Expert Modeling;
  • Multiple Models;
  • Conflict; and
  • Systemic Reasoning

These different ways of thinking are so basic that they pervade all of the decision B making and problem B solving methods.

In expert consensus, truth is the product of group consensus, and the stronger the consensus, the stronger the truth. This way of thinking could be problematic, because the assumption underlying is that truth is singular. This way typically does not produce multiple views and interpretations of problems. It converges on what a particular group believes best represents the truth of a situation. Moreover, there is always the danger of culminating in group think.

The expert modeling mindset approaches truth as a set of fundamental assumptions and basic beliefs of an expert community. The beliefs are used to construct a model of the situation, which is also regarded as truth. This way of approaching truth is often used in everyday life, but frequently fails to produce alternative views of problems and circumstances.

In multiple models way of thinking the aim is to explicitly and deliberately produce multiple views of a problem. The understanding is that decision makers dealing with important problems need to ponder explicitly different views before they can decide which version of a problem to pursue. There is the acknowledgement that different professions and disciplines produce different explanations of a phenomenon. Consider drug addiction. An economist can define the problem and seek a solution in terms of supply and demand of drugs, the various costs to society, the cost of treatment programs and whether to make drugs available cost B free. A psychologist will make the case in terms of self-esteem, personality disorders. A sociologist in terms of the breakdown of the family and community values. A medical doctor will stress physiological processes. Each of these representations is right in that the variables of a particular discipline do explain part of the problem, and incomplete in that each is a partial explanation at best.

In the conflict way thinking the logic is to deliberately and systematically construct at least two different views of a core problem that are the strongest opponents of one another. By being exposed to an intensive debate between two or more different views of an important problem the decision maker can understand the assumptions underlying a particular formulation of a problem. It is not a personal, gender, generational or even an ideological issue, but a methodological perspective for producing knowledge by way of interactions. The point is that one position often cannot be fully understood by itself, rather only within the context of its contrasts with its opposite.

The systemic way of reasoning is a model of models. The argument is that each of the previous four ways of thinking is appropriate depending on the situation. We can use the first two models for building detailed and precise structures of problem, as well as deriving exact solutions to them, but only after we have used the third and fourth way of thinking to pick what is regarded as an important problem and decide on its formulation. There is not a most important discipline. All fields of knowledge are inherently interdependent. Professions and disciplines are a form of modeling language, and within the systemic reasoning every language is legitimate. In some cases one language may be more appropriate than others, but each is relevant to the description of any problem.

The challenge for the future is to develop new multidisciplinary methods for viewing problems that arise.


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