|Mixed Solution Strategies|
My struggle to integrate the rational and intuitive was reflected in a Box Feature from the second edition of Information Systems which I coauthored with my friend Val Silbey. We changed the subtitle to People and Computers in Organizations to emphasize the human dimension of systems work. Added emphasis appears in red: (Note 122)
The discussion of the definition phase in Chapter 10 refers to the use of the top down approach in the study of the present organization and analysis of specific requirements. In contrast, the bottom up mode is suggested for the study of the present application and analysis of general requirements. This corresponds respectively to the classic distinction between deductive and inductive problem solving. For a complex problem, neither strategy is successful by itself. A whole brain strategy combines both strategies to solve a problem. A concrete expression of this view is given by Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
The analogy of the motorcycle (application) and its mechanic (project leader) gives tangible meaning to the bottom up and top down ideas. In the study of the present application, we begin with the particulars of existing reports and infer the system flow diagram. An understanding is reached by organizing details into a whole. Similarly, in the analysis of general requirements, interview records provide particulars for arriving at the general requirements statement.
In sharp contrast, we initiate situation review with the study of the present organization by making general observations in a narrative summary. These observations are made more explicit as we move to the statement of personnel responsibilities. Then, in the analysis of specific requirements, we begin with the proposed system flow diagram. This big picture of the general solution is elaborated by deducing particular reports to accomplish the general flow.
Mixed solution strategies must be used in solving complex problems whether that involves fixing a motorcycle or improving an organization's information system capabilities. This means that the problem solver, to be successful, must use a whole brain approach in the design and implementation phase as well as the definition phase.