iterative inquiry

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Iterative inquiry is a form of synthesis. This inquiry process synthesizes an understanding of the whole by querying the whole from multiple aspects and querying the interrelationships between those aspects. This approach to inquiry iterates from aspect to aspect and the aspect interrelationships as an understanding of the whole are synthesized. This process results in an understanding of the behavior of the whole and how the interrelationships of the parts create the attributes of the whole.

The process --
The aspects and the related elements to be inquired upon are defined along with their interrelationships. The inquiry iteratively focuses on understanding each aspect and integrating all of the aspects of the inquiry. The iteration continues until the understanding, design, and/or participation needs are met.

A possible iteration scenario is as follows --

  1. Iteration one -- define the assumptions and properties of each aspect and their interrelationships
  2. Iteration two -- Identify issues, alternatives, perform validations, and develop issue resolutions
  3. Iteration three -- Refine the resolution, further develop understanding, seek a common understanding and consensus
  4. Iteration three plus -- Continue iterations as needed to further refine or validate the resolutions and/or foster further participation

The inquiry is over when the understanding is clear and has not shifted significantly from the previous iteration. Thus the inquiry is complete when the objective of the inquiry is achieved, not necessarily in a fixed number of sessions or cycles.

The iteration process produces its most valuable results when iteration results be asymptotically approaching one ""value"" . It requires a great deal of discipline to take the iterations to this degree of completeness. One or two iterations typically produce such dramatic results that the perceived value of performing a third or fourth iteration is negligible. The value is only visible after the fact - making for difficulty in motivating the team to approach the next iteration with passion and integrity.

The consolation to this dilemma is knowing that one iteration is better than none, two is better than one, ... even if an asymptotical approached solution is not visible.

Note: Iterative inquiry and the aspects of purpose, function, process, and structure are attributed to Jamshid Gharajedaghi, Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity: A Platform for Designing Business Architecture, (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2nd Edition, 2006) p 108-113, 133-135.

This definition compiled by Kim C. Korn, Create Advantage, Inc.,