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Inquiry, or enquiry, is an act of asking for information. For inquiry to be successful, it must be carefully thought through in order to be applicable to the particular situation or subject being inquired upon. This requires an initial judgment to launch the inquiry. Russell L. Ackoff (1999, p 293) describes inquiry as ""A procedure for (a) answering questions, (b) solving problems, and (c) developing more efficient procedures for answering questions and solving problems.""

Establishing a valid basis for business organization inquiry is essential to strategy development and the accompanying business design.

Need for a preconceived notion of the whole --
Effective inquiry requires a preconceived notion of the whole in order to sort out relevant patterns from what otherwise would appear as chaos as well as to dispel false mental constructs which make up patterns where none actually exist. Jamshid Gharajedaghi (2006, p 109) called this foreknowledge an ""enabling light"". The American philosopher E.A. Singer (1959, p 109). described the need for this foreknowledge -- ""It would be idle to set out on a search not knowing what one was looking for; it would be equally idle to seek the answer to a question of whose meaning one knew nothing. But one could have caught nothing of the meaning of the question, did he not know one thing about the answer; namely the form this answer must take.""

In the case of business design, i.e. business organization design, the preconceived notion comes in the form of a social system as defined by systems science. This provides a construct applicable to a legitimate understanding of business organizations.

General inquiry construct --
The general structure of an inquiry --

  • Inquiry
    • The guiding light - a way of viewing the object of the inquiry -- multiple perspectives of the whole.
      • inquiry of each aspect
      • inquiry of aspect integration
    • Form of the answer
      • elements of the whole
      • structure of the elements
      • element interrelationships

Inquiry application --
The basic inquiry process works with any multi-variable complex system. It is the object of the inquiry that makes one inquiry different from another. Any complex system can be inquired upon in an iterative manner to produce an understanding or design.

Inquiry principles --
The inquiry process is consistent with systems, complexity, and systems thinking.

Inquiry for strategy development and business design --
For the specific method of inquiry used both to develop an understanding and design of a business organization, see iterative inquiry and business organization inquiry.

Management considerations --
The first thing to note about inquiry is that how the inquiry is conducted makes all the difference in the world as to what the result of the inquiry will be. The objective of a management inquiry should of course be to find the ""truth of the matter"". That is easier said than done.

Becoming familiar with social systems and iterative inquiry provides the basis for effective business organization inquiry.