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The goal

Hull University Business School Seminar, Hull, UKDecember 14, 2011Dr. Viacheslav Maracha, Russia, MoscowNon-Profit Research Foundation "The Schedrovitsky Institute for Development"The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public AdministrationThinking, Systems and Critical Practices in the Moscow Methodological Circle

The goal
The Goal

  • to describe briefly the history and general features of, and recent developments in, Russian systems thinking and critical practices in the Moscow Methodological Circle (MMC);

  • to consider the relation of the given methods and practices to those developed in traditions of Critical System Thinking (CST).

The moscow methodological circle mmc
The Moscow Methodological Circle (MMC)

  • was organized and led for more than forty years by G. P. Shchedrovitsky (1929–1994);

  • was created in the USSR in the year of I. Stalin’s death (1953) when logic was the only area of free philosophical thought;

  • now it exists as the “Methodological Movement” and a few institutions associated with it.

The idea of methodological thinking as universal general features and principles
The Idea of Methodological thinking as universal: general features and principles

  • the “methodological turn” from thinking about systems as objects to the process of thinking systemically. This paradigm shift has been pursued in Russia and could be compared with the shift from “systems sciences” to “systems rationality” in critical systems thinking (CST).

  • universalism and reflexivity in relation to the other types of thinking (in science, designs, engineering etc.);

  • practical orientation (connections thinking-activity etc.);

  • reflectivity as practical orientation of thinking to itself: capability to re-construct and re-direct itself.

The goal
Three programmes and three paradigms of thinking being undertaken by the Moscow Methodological Circle

Three programmes:

  • 'Logical Researches‘;

  • 'Activity Theory‘;

  • 'System-Thinking-Activity‘.

    Three paradigms of thinking:

  • 'Epistemological-Semiotic‘;

  • 'Thinking-as-Activity‘;

  • 'Socio-Cultural'.

Mmc first programme
MMC First Programme undertaken by the Moscow Methodological Circle

  • became the programme of logic researches of the thinking, meaning “methodological turn” of thinking from objects to the thinking itself;

  • the thinking was considered epistemologically (as generating new knowledge) and as activity (operations with the signs replacing objects of thought);

  • the systemic approach was used and developed for organizing processes of resolving complex problems by multi-professional teams.

Shift from objects to thinking
Shift from Objects to Thinking undertaken by the Moscow Methodological Circle

  • characterizes MMC from the beginning;

  • has allowed MMC to formulate original vision of problems of the systemic approach: not to investigate “systemic objects”, but to conceptualize and resolve “systemic situations” as a form of work with complex problems;

  • corresponds to the shift of interest from “systems sciences” to “systems rationality” - as discussed in tradition CST.

Conceptualization of systemic situations two components
Conceptualization of Systemic Situations: Two Components undertaken by the Moscow Methodological Circle

  • subject (subject matter) and object distinction when systemic situations were represented as a situation of presence of several subject representations of one object which need to be correlated and connected with each other;

  • “the Scheme of Multiple Knowledge” based on Configurator-Model (or Configuration Plan)and Configuration Method.

The scheme of multiple knowledge
“The Scheme of Multiple Knowledge” undertaken by the Moscow Methodological Circle

  • Particular points of view on the object are considered as “projections” (subject “cuts”) – which are taken at various turns of a whole “multi-dimensional” object that should be recreated on the base of the projections

Fig. 1. “The Scheme of Multiple Knowledge”

Fig. 2. “Projections” and Configurator-Model

The scheme of multiple knowledge continuation
“The Scheme of Multiple Knowledge” (continuation) undertaken by the Moscow Methodological Circle

  • the restored complex object is called the Configurator-Model, and the method of construction of similar models – the Configuration Method.

Fig. 4. The Configuration Method: Configurator-Model and Configuration Plan

Fig. 3. Systemicconstruction of synthesized knowledge

Mmc second programme
MMC Second Programme undertaken by the Moscow Methodological Circle

MMC Second Programmewas based on:

  • the General Theory of the Activity;

  • System-Activity approach (SA-approach).

    In MMC Second Programme:

  • Configuration Method was proved via representing Thinking as Activity;

  • “The scheme of multiple knowledge” was represented as the scheme of the multi-positional organization of activity in which the Thinking-as-Activity acted as design/ programme.

Forms of specific mmc practice methodological seminars and organizational activity games
Forms of Specific MMC Practice: Methodological Seminars and Organizational-Activity Games

  • Methodological Seminars as the form of collective thinking became specific MMC practice (MMC Seminars), allowing to develop systemic situations in the “here-and-now” mode;

  • Step-by-step, having originated as the form of discussions within MMC, Methodological Seminars became the form of discussion of interdisciplinary problems;

  • Finally, MMC Seminars generated “a new way of organization and a method for developing collective thinking-activity” – Organizational-Activity Games.

Organizational activity games oag
Organizational-Activity Games (OAG) Organizational-Activity Games

  • OAG were invented by G. P. Shchedrovitsky in 1979;

  • OAG became specific technology of work with large-scale systemic situations (e.g. reforms, etc.) via:

    • performance of collectively-distributed thinking, and

    • engaging activity of carriers of various subject knowledge, operating with them in a mode of the multi-positional organization;

  • interaction between representatives of different positions was performed not only on the basis of the cooperative organization of activity, but also according to the principles of intellectual communications – “Thinking-Communication”.

Mmc third program me
MMC Third Program Organizational-Activity Gamesme

Introduction of Thinking-Communication concept leads to:

  • abandoning of the Thinking-as-Activity Concept;

  • transition to the System-Thinking-Activity approach (STA-approach) based on theThinking-Activity Scheme (see fig. 5 – the next slide).

  • the thinking and activity are represented in the form of different “layers” (“Pure Thinking” and “Thinking-Action”), divided by a “Thinking-Communication” layer;

  • links between Thinking-Activity layers are mediated by Reflection and Understanding processes.

The thinking activity scheme
The Thinking-Activity Scheme Organizational-Activity Games

P. Th.



Fig. 5. The Thinking-Activity Scheme

Three concepts of systems used by the moscow methodological circle
Three concepts of systems used by the Moscow Methodological Circle

  • natural “thing” systems;

  • activity systems;

  • socio-cultural systems, or systems with internal sense (e.g. institutions as a case of systems with internal sense).

Conclusions Circle

MMC has offered two basic ways for the resolving systemic situations:

  • epistemological, based on the Configuration Method;

  • practical (SA/STA), using OAG Method.

    Both ways mean the reflective practice carrying out both development of knowledge, and development of the activity/thinking-activity, providing completeness of knowledge development life cycle.

Conclusions continuation
Conclusions (continuation) Circle

  • The Configuration Method is constructed on the basis of a metatheory (and consequently is “imperialistic”).

  • Vice-versa OAG Method means formation of Thinking-Activity Space in which the free, intelligent and responsible choice of the point of view, a way of action and the form of its discussion is possible.

  • In OAG not only means and the ends, but also the values can be made problematic.

  • Therefore it is possible to assume that OAG Method corresponds to a Triple Loop Learning in CST.

The goal

Thank you for attention! Circle

Dr. Viacheslav Maracha, Russia, Moscow

The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

Non-Profit Research Foundation "The Schedrovitsky Institute for Development"

Ph.: +7 495 978 6489