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Abstract

Churchman [1971] defines inquiry as an activity that produces knowledge. He examines the epistemologies of five schools of philosophy from the perspective of general systems theory, asking the question as to whether each is suitable as the basis for the design of computer-based "inquiring systems." He considers systems design and design theory in some detail. We believe that Churchman's inquiring systems can form the basis for the design of knowledge management systems and that the IS research community has hardly tapped the potential of inquiring systems in that regard. Mason and Mitroff [1973] brought inquiring systems into the IS literature early on, essentially making the work endogenous to the field. We argue that building on inquiring systems can contribute to developing IS as a discipline by maintaining continuity in research and developing a theory that IS can call its own. We believe that the lack of use of Churchman's work may be due to its lack of visibility in recent years and attempt to remedy that by summarizing the basics of the inquirers in some detail, trying not to interpret, but to remain faithful to the original. The paper encourages readers to study the original and develop their own notion of how the inquirers might be used in knowledgemanagement work. There are probably as many different perspectives on how inquiring systems could support KMS as there are IS researchers willing to study them. We would like to encourage a proliferation of such perspectives.

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