May 20, 2005
IFORS Operational Research Hall of Fame: Russell L. Ackoff
Kirby, MW, Rosenhead, JR. (2005) International Transactions in Operational Research, 12(1), 129-134.
Russell Ackoff has been honored as the latest inductee into the IFORS Operational Research Hall of Fame.
In their recent article, Maurice Kirby and Jonathan Rosenhead track Ackoff's intellectual journey and detail his gradual transition from "OR apostle to OR apostate."
The authors begin by noting Ackoff's influence on the early development of OR in the 1950s and '60s. Teaming up with C. West Churchman, their self-defined mission was to apply philosophy to societal issues, and in 1957 they co-authored the pioneering text, Introduction to Operations Research.
As the Machine Age faded, however, the Systems Age presented an increasingly complex and volatile society, whose issues Ackoff was finding OR models too narrow to effectively address. Increasingly, Ackoff focused more on interdisciplinary approaches to decision-making. Moving away from OR's quantitative/computational norm, he called for a new paradigm for OR rooted in a more participative, holistic systems approach.
Eventually, he found OR completely irrelevant to problems above the purely tactical level. He was quoted in 1987 as saying, "I did not abandon [OR], [OR] abandoned me." The break led him to identify himself with the systems movement, a constituency where his writings have been enormously influential.
To read this article, click on the link: IFORS Operational Research Hall of Fame:
Russell L. Ackoff.