of Dialectical Inquiry (DI)
Dialectics (D) has a
long history during which the meaning and understanding of it changed. In Asia, the
idea that everything is made of opposites--yin and yang--dates back to
the I Ching around 3,000 years ago and the Taoist master Lao
Tzu around 2,500 years ago. Taoism holds that change is the
only constant. Taoist philosophy also understood that "gradual change
leads to a sudden change of form (hua)."
Also around 2,500 years ago in
ancient Greece, Heraclites advanced the idea that all change
comes through the struggle of opposites. The Aztecs also held the
idea of nature being made of opposites, as did the Lakotas in
North America. In Plato's dialogues, Socrates typically
"argues" by means of cross-examining someone else's assertions in order
to draw out the inherent contradictions within the other's position.
Aristoteles compared Dialectics with Rhetoric (the art of
convincing others) stating that dialectics are dealing with an upright
looking for the truth.
reason the idea of everything being made of opposites died out in
Western thought until Kant and Hegel revitalized
the idea of dialectics just as the industrial revolution was beginning.
Finally Fichte made the
implicit triad existing in Hegel's work explicit by clearly
distinguishing between Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis,
and this idea was subsequently extended by Marx and Engels.
Use of the DI
Method in VBM, Strategy and Ethics
Strategy, Value Based Management and Business Ethics (Values) are all
complex by nature (Compare:
History of Value Based
Management). D offer a number of advantages to those that
must deal with this inherent complexity and with these seemingly
contradicting forces (tensions).
De Wit and Meyer (Strategy: Process, Content, Context) mention the
following advantages of taking a dialectical approach to strategic
paradoxes and complexity (instead of treating the tensions as
puzzles, dilemma's or trade-offs or taking the
- A range of ideas can be exploited
- Help focus on points of contention (critical points)
- Provides a stimulus for bridging seemingly irreconcilable opposites
- Provides a stimulus for creativity (to find a synthesis that is better
then the trade-off between the opposites)
A method resembling D is the Devil’s Advocate Approach.
This method is also useful in exposing underlying assumptions,
but has a tendency to emphasize the negative, whereas DI is a more balanced and harmonious approach.
Book: Bob de With and Ron Meyer - Strategy: Process, Content, Context -
Book: Alex Lowy and Phil Hood - The Power of the 2x2 Matrix - Using 2x2
Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions -
Book: Barry Johnson - Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing
Unsolvable Problems -
Book: Charles M. Hampden-Turner, Fons Trompenaars - Building
Cross-Cultural Competence: How to Create Wealth from Conflicting Values -
Compare with Dialectical Inquiry:
Root Cause Analysis |
Six Thinking Hats
| System Dynamics |
Scenario Planning |
Game Theory |
Spiral Dynamics |
Real Options |
| Plausibility Theory
More management models