September 05, 2015

An Interview with Russell L. Ackoff

By Glenn Detrick –

Academy of Management Learning and Education
Volume 1, Issue 1 September 2002

Russell L. Ackoff is one of the pioneers in management education. With an undergraduate degree in architecture and a PhD in philosophy, Ackoff is one of the founders of operations research and systems thinking, linking science and business. Influential in management thinking for the entire second half of the 20th century, Ackoff has published 22 books and over 200 articles in journals and books, on a myriad of topics. His illustrious academic career has played out primarily at Case Institute of Technology and The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Such is the breadth and reach of his intellectual contribution that the Ackoff Center for Advanced Systems Approaches at the University of Pennsylvania was established as part of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Ackoff has consulted with more than 350 corporations and 75 governmental agencies in the United States and abroad. All have benefited greatly from his “out of the box” thinking and point of view.

Ackoff provides a particularly useful perspective for this the first issue of the Academy of Management Learning and Education. As you will see from what follows, Ackoff challenges much of current thinking about teaching and learning in terms of what is effective and what isn’t when the ultimate objective is to improve the learning process.

To continue reading, please click on: An Interview with Russell L. Ackoff

Posted by ACASA on September 5, 2015 at 01:02 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 25, 2015

Ackoff's rules of system interdependency, Part I

BY Gordon Housworth -- From ICG Blog

"Anyone familiar with my systems side knows that I treasure Russ Ackoff, whose three rules of system interdependency are never far from hand when approaching any system, human, natural, or mechanical. Any analysis of our own or of an opponent's system calls for them as they immediate flag disconnects and suboptimization. I summarize Ackoff’s rules of interdependency as:

  • Rule One: If you optimize a system, you will sub-optimize one or more components
  • Rule Two: If you optimize the components of a system, you will sub-optimize the system
  • Rule Three: The components of a system form subgroups that obey Rules One and Two

They show why a system can be so maddeningly complex, especially when its parts are examined in isolation to others and to their environment. It is Rule Three that so often brings an expression similar to that of the Sheriff Brody in the film, Jaws, when he turns from the shark to say, "We need a bigger boat." Indeed we do.

Ackoff corrects our commonly held view that a system is the sum of its parts. Instead a system is the product of the interactions of those parts: "…the essential properties that define any system are properties of the whole which none of the parts have." Ackoff likes to cite the automobile's essential property is to transport us from place to place, a property that no single part of the car can perform, i.e., once a system is dismantled, it loses its essential characteristic even if we retain its parts.

Ackoff zeroed in on the need for understanding (of a system or anything else) in "Mechanisms, organisms and social systems":

"One can survive without understanding, but not thrive. Without understanding one cannot control causes; only treat effect, suppress symptoms. With understanding one can design and create the future ... people in an age of accelerating change, increasing uncertainty, and growing complexity often respond by acquiring more information and knowledge, but not understanding."

To Read the Post, Click on the following URL: Applying Ackoff's rules of system interdependency, Part I

Posted by ACASA on March 25, 2015 at 01:58 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 15, 2014

Russ Ackoff on An Idealized Design for a University

By Skip Walter

In 1986, while managing Digital Equipment Corporation’s ALL-IN-1 $1B per year office automation development efforts, a colleague sent me a copy of Russ Ackoff’s Creating the Corporate Future (1981).  To paraphrase Russ’s famous introductory lectures on how he came across the process he turned into his Idealized Design methodology through his work with Bell Labs (the story is an introduction to his book Idealized Design:  How to Dissolve Tomorrow’s Crisis …Today), I really wished she had not sent me the book as I spent most of the next year interacting with Russ and his team at the Wharton School instead of doing what I was supposed to do at DEC.

After reading the book and a previous book The SCATT Report:  Designing a National Scientific and Technical Communication System (1976), I immediately called Russ and asked if I could visit him to learn more about his methods and his way of systems thinking.  I shared with him many of the challenges we were facing at Digital Equipment with our rapid growth and with the dramatic impact that the PC revolution and the networking revolution were having on our business.  He graciously agreed to meet and the next day I went to Philadelphia to meet him at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

To Read the Post, Click on the following URL: Russ Ackoff on An Idealized Design for a University

Posted by ACASA on December 15, 2014 at 11:49 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2014

By Rejecting the Status Quo, Russ Ackoff Took Systems Thinking to Greater Heights

After World WAr II, the U.S. War Production Board sought to preserve the scientific knowledge gained during the war support efforts. Major advances expanded theoretical knowledge, such as the development of the discipline of operations research. Practical advances of knowledge resulted from the intense manufacturing efforts, such as the application of statistical methods in a practice of control for production methods. But somehow, theory and practice diverged—and today we are worse off because of it.

That was the lifetime message of Russ Ackoff, who died [October 2009]. He was a man who had one foot firmly planted in mathematical-analytical disciplines and the other in humanistic-participatory teamwork. His life story is instructive for quality professionals as it traces the development of systems thinking during its 60-year migration.

To read the article, click on the following link: By rejecting the status quo, Russ Ackoff took systems thinking to greater heights

Posted by ACASA on October 1, 2014 at 04:35 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 27, 2014

Ackoff Quotes

From: Wikiquotes

This page provides some quotes from Russell Ackoff who was a professor and pioneer in the fields of operations research, systems thinking and management science.


Posted by ACASA on August 27, 2014 at 04:23 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 04, 2014

Transforming the Systems Movement

By Russell L. Ackoff

Posted on 3/31/2014

The situation the world is in is amess. This hardly requires documentation; it's obvious. Furthermore, as Leslie Gelb observed (1991), the prospects for improvement are not promising: the emerging world requires a new foreign policy agenda, and fresh faces to execute that agenda. The trouble is, the same old "experts" are still running foreign policy and most of them only dimly understand the world they preside over. Indeed, few people today, in or out of Government, have the backgroundand skills to grasp, let alone direct, the new agenda.
Reform will not do it; transformations are required, two kinds. First a transformation of the way nations and international institutions handle gobal affairs and second, a transformation in the way systems thinkers collectively conduct the systems movement. The second must come first if we hope to have any effect on the global mess.
To read more click here: Transforming the Systems Movement

Posted by ACASA on April 4, 2014 at 10:29 PM in blog post, Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 31, 2014

Towards the Social Business School

Posted March 18, 2014

This post is a summary of a devastating critique that the great systems thinker Russell Ackoff made of business schools twenty years ago, why he’s still mainly right, and why social technologies now provide us with phenomenal possibilities for the Social Business School – an alternative and highly effective approach to business education.

To read more click here: Towards the Social Business School

Posted by ACASA on March 31, 2014 at 11:25 PM in blog post, Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2013

Source for Idealized Design

Idealized Design, a segment of Interactive Planning, is an organizational development process developed by Russell L. Ackoff in the 1950's which enables an organization to get beyond the problem solving mode and unleash their innovative potential.

Source for Idealized Design

Posted by ACASA on August 22, 2013 at 10:04 AM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 28, 2010

Seeing Your Company as a System

Much-needed guidance on making companies more employee-centered, adaptive, and capable

This is an article from Strategy+Business by Andrea Gabor:

… No matter how disparate the causes of failure, there is always a common thread: somewhere, somehow, management has let its attention slip. …[Now] is an opportune time to reflect on the leading ideas that have shaped what we know about the management of social systems, particularly corporations, and how to stabilize and improve them.

The recognition that a company is a complex social system and a living community has been an underlying theme of leading management thinkers as far back as the early 20th century. Nevertheless, the machine continues to be the dominant metaphor for business leaders, …

To read the rest of this article, please click on the following url:   Seeing Your Company as a System

Posted by ACASA on May 28, 2010 at 03:57 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 16, 2009

Systems Thinking and Design Thinking

Fred Collopy, co-editor of "Managing as Designing" (Stanford Business Books, 2004), has posted an essay on Design and Systems Thinking called "Why the failure of systems thinking should  inform the future of design thinking" on Fast Company magazine's web site...

This - combined with two videos from last week's Business as an Agent of World Benefit conference at Case Western University .

The videos show (a) Peter Senge and Russ speaking about Systems Thinking and (b) Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the Univ. of Toronto doing the same... at this leading edge corporate social responsibility conference which had "Management as a Design Activity" as one of its themes.

The video of Peter Senge and Russ Ackoff is here...

The video of Roger Martin is here...

Case Western's Dr. David Cooperrider's introductory remarks last about 3 minutes.  Roger Martin then speaks for about 25 minutes.  He also acknowledges Russ Ackoff before talking about how design thinking should be incorporated into business education.

Posted by ACASA on June 16, 2009 at 08:44 AM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)