Thinking-Activity Scheme as a Communication Bridge Between Systems Thinking and Systems Practice
Keywords:the Moscow Methodological Circle (MMC), methodological thinking, methodological schemes, Thinking-Activity Scheme, System-Thinking-Activity Approach (STA), systemic 3D-Methodology, moderation technologies.
Exploring ways to co-organize systems thinking and systems practice we discuss the answer of Russian systems thinking which was developed by the Moscow Methodological Circle (MMC).
MMC was organized in USSR in the year of J. Stalin’s death (1953) and was led for more than forty years by G. P. Shchedrovitsky (1929–1994). Now it exists as the “Methodological Movement” and a few institutions associated with it.
MMC developed “methodological thinking”, which was characterised by the following general features and principles:
1) holism and reflexivity in relation to the other approaches and types of thinking (in science, design, engineering, socio-cultural and law studies, etc.);
2) practical orientation (connections thinking-activity, which used systems approach as the means of organizing processes of resolving complex problems by multi-professional and transdisciplinary teams, etc.);
3) reflectivity as practical orientation of thinking to itself, i.e. its capability to re-construct and re-direct itself;
4) the “methodological turn” from thinking about systems as objects to organizing, performing and reflecting the process of systems thinking in practice.
The shift from objects to the process of systems thinking which was mentioned above is characteristic for MMC from the very beginning of its activity. It corresponds to the shift of researchers interest from “systems sciences” to “systems rationality” – as it is discussed in holistic systems thinking approaches. This methodological turn has allowed MMC to formulate original vision of problems of the systems approach: not to investigate “systemic objects”, but to conceptualise and resolve “systemic situations” as a form of work with complex problems. These systemic situations were considered as including subjects of thinking and action into the field of systems practice and reflection.
Now MMC systems methodology has three basic components which are the foundations of System-Thinking-Activity Approach (STA):
1) systems thinking (as “methodological thinking” described above);
2) Thinking-Activity Scheme (an intellectual construction called by “scheme” in MMC is a diagram linked to the certain model as its meaning) and moderation technologies;
3) Systemic 3D-Methodology.
In Thinking-Activity Scheme (published in 1983) thinking and practical activity are represented in the form of different “layers” (“Pure Thinking” and “Thinking-Action”), divided by a “Thinking-Communication” layer. Links between three layers of Thinking-Activity Scheme are mediated by Reflection and Understanding processes. “Thinking-Communication” layer in Thinking-Activity Scheme provides collectiveness of Thinking-Activity and allows to govern it by the means of moderation technologies. We use them in order to apply STA-Approach to systemic situations from practice. Moderation technologies are considered as the mode of communicative management supporting adhocratic type of interaction and deliberative communication, i.e. the “horizontal” and not-alienating interaction in multi-professional teams providing collectively-distributed thinking and multi-positional organization of resolving systemic situations which bear in themselves complex problems.
Systemic 3D-Methodology is the principle of thinking in the space of two “orthogonal” planes:
1) Object-Ontological plane with schemes and objects of practical theory located on it;
2) Organizational-Activity plane with schemes organizing multi-professional communications and methods, forms and instruments of transdisciplinary thinking.
Methodological schemes are specific MMC instruments or intellectual constructions, which can co-organize Object-Ontological and Organizational-Activity planes of 3D-Methodology as a complete reflexive 3D-space and be used as instruments on both planes. Using Thinking-Activity Scheme in this function with the help of moderation technologies allows researchers and practitioners to bridge systems thinking and systems practice in moderated forms of events organization (seminars, “round tables”, transdisciplinary conferences like ISSS etc.) and to do the same in process forms of workflow organization: project groups, foresight, Organizational-Activity Games (OAG), strategic sessions, staff games, civil juries, wisdom councils, etc.
Now Thinking-Activity Scheme is implemented in consulting, education, city and regional development, public policy, public expertise procedures, organizing of public-political communications, conflict resolving and mediation procedures. In future it will be useful in international relations, cross-cultural interactions, global problems resolving, etc.