April 04, 2014
Transforming the Systems Movement
By Russell L. Ackoff
Posted on 3/31/2014
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
December 20, 2012
Audi announces new design strategy
In discussing Audi’s new cooperative vehicle design approach, Achim Badstübner , head of exterior design identified a critical challenge faced by any organization attempting improve the manner in which they consider product development in a more holistic manner, that is “...to break down the culture of individual authorship and encourage cooperation...You have to be an expert and there is an advantage in digging deep, to really know every screw, every system and pattern for a specific thing, because you have all of the information at the point where you need it, but it is misguided in another way. If you dig too deep, it's a little bit like digging a hole: you're in the hole so you can't see the world around it."
The intensity to which one group focuses on an aspect of a problem is not without merit. As Vince Barabba  points out in his new book, The Decision Loom, “Many functional managers...attempt to maintain complete control to ensure that their function is run efficiently and not influenced by outside forces.” He points out that value of the functional silos is found in their “...ability to use their resources to generate deep and valuable functional knowledge.”
The problem that needs to be avoided is to ensure that the perfect solution for a specific function does not have negative consequences for another function with which it interacts. Finding this problem has occurred after the design is put together is very costly. Barabba’s suggestion is to treat the design activity more like a molecular structure and treat the functions as molecules that interact with each other. The important distinction of the molecular metaphor is that functional cells are contained by membranes and not walls. Membranes are capable of letting information in and out. In this way the functions share information and improve the chance that their combined capabilities will create a whole that is greater than the sum of their individual expertise.
 “Audi announces new design strategy,” Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 at 5:44 pm by Rose Etherington, Dezeen Magazine, December 19, 2012
 Barabba, Vincent; The Decision Loom, Triarchy Press, Stanton, UK 2011, Pages 193-198
August 22, 2012
If Russ Ackoff had given a TED Talk...
This presentation is from a 1994 event hosted by Clare Crawford-Mason and Lloyd Dobyns to capture the Learning and Legacy of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Russ knew Dr. Deming and speaks here about the difference between "continuous improvement" and "discontinuous improvement" as seen through the lens of systems thinking.
August 25, 2009
Systems Thinking: Ancient Maya's Evolution of Consciousness and Contemporary Thinking
Posted by Assistant Professor Tadeja Jere Lazanski, University of Primorska, Portoroz, Slovenia on her blog: "Systems thinking is a framework that is based on
the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood
in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems,
rather than in isolation. The only way to fully understand why a
problem or element occurs and persists is to understand the part in relation to the whole. (Capra, 1997)
There are some historical facts regarding systems and systems thinking. Systems thinking as a modern approach for problem solving was revived after WWII even though it had been an ancient philosophy. We can track systems thinking back to antiquity. Differentiated from Western rationalist traditions of philosophy, C. West Churchman often identified with the I Ching as a systems approach sharing a frame of reference similar to pre-Socratic philosophy and Heraclitus. (Hammond, 2003)
The first systems thinkers can be found in the oldest of human societies – the ancient Phoenicians with their cuneiforms, the Egyptians with their pyramids, Greek philosophers and Maya Indians are the earliest ancient societies of system thinkers. The Mayan numerical system and long count units has been proven as one of the most accurate systems for describing the present and future of the civilization in which we have all evolved. The Mayan calendars Tzolkin and Tun, based on mathematics as a strictly rational factor and enriched by intuition, are examples of an evolutionary system of human consciousness. The calendars and their meaning for sustainable society were completely explained and scientifically proven by Swedish microbiologist and Professor Carl Johan Calleman. The calendars presented personal intents of individuals and prophetic meanings for civilization. (Calleman, 2004) Basically, he deciphered the purpose of the calendars, what they represented and meant to the Mayans and how they used them. He discovered that the calendars were timing the development and evolution of consciousness (individual, societal, universal)."
To read this posting, click on the link: Systems Thinking: Ancient Maya's Evolution of Consciousness and Contemporary Thinking
March 08, 2009
Systems Thinking as taught by Ackoff
Posted by Chandler on his blog, he writes about Ackoff: "I have read a few books he has written and have learned Systems Thinking from him. I am surprised that the field of Systems Thinking is not well understood. Following is my attempt to share what I learned from one of Ackoff's recent lectures."
To read this blog, click on the link: Systems Thinking as taught by Ackoff
December 28, 2006
Report on General Systems Theory I, CSA 411/490, December 14th, 2006
Comparative Systems Analysis 411/490: General Systems Theory I
Len Troncale, PhD, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Fall Term, 2006.
One of the difficulties of being systems practitioners is that we don’t fit into the recognized categories or disciplines in corporate, governmental, or academic settings. Also, we experience different aspects of systems thinking and systems practice, but rarely have an opportunity or the time to consider the various systems processes, what exactly they are and how they work together.
This course offered its participants the luxury to focus together on the basics, a few processes at a time, on what will eventually be recognized as the taxonomy of systems science. The invitation to the course described it as “a comprehensive introduction to the emerging new field of systems science.” For the Fall term, 2006, on Fridays at 1 p.m., Pacific time, nine people from four different states met by telephone bridge line to discuss readings from systems workers as diverse as Strogatz, Barabasi, Prigogine, Wolfram, Allen, and, of course, Troncale.
The current form of this class emerged from last year, when Brian Meux, Todd Bowers, and I (and a few other CSU Pomona students) began Len Troncale’s CSA 411 course following the 2005 ISSS meeting in Cancun. We spent the 2005-2006 academic year, three terms, focusing on 11 or 12 systems processes and touching upon the more than 80 processes found in Troncale’s system of systems processes (SSP). There were no textbooks and no set curriculum. Meeting by telephone (I’m from Hawaii), using Blackboard, wiki technology, and the CSU Pomona online library, we formed the curriculum in the process of doing the work. We produced a series of posters and presentations and a workshop for the annual ISSS meeting in Sonoma. After a year, we felt we were just getting started.To read this blog, click on the link: Reframing Reality
July 25, 2006
Origins of CSR and Stakeholder Theory
Origins and development of Corporate Social Responsibility and Stakeholder Theory
I've wondered for a long time how the belief in Shareholder Value came to dominate corporate thinking. I started reading around this topic to try to understand how this came to be. Clearly it is related to what each of us see as the purpose of corporations.
In a previous post, I wrote about Art Kleiner’s ‘Age of corporate dominance’. We’ve been arguing about the purpose of corporations ever since.. Do they exist solely to make a profit and serve their shareholder owners or do they have a social responsibility to other stakeholders as well?
To read this Blog Post, click on the link: Origins of CSR and Stakeholder Theory
May 23, 2006
Moving up the wisdom hierarchy
If you're an aggregator "harnessing collective intelligence", what are you aggregating? If it's data and information, you're competing with just about everything--Google searches, reference docs both online and printed, the majority of tech books and articles, etc. But if you're aggregating up the hierarchy through knowledge, and especially understanding and wisdom, you're adding huge value to someone's life.
If you're in knowledge management, what exactly are you capturing and managing?
If you're a teacher, what are you teaching? Facts and information, or practical knowledge and understanding? Are you teaching the What and the How but without the Why and the When? More importantly, what are you testing? (Not that in the US most public school teachers have a huge say in this, unfortuntately)
If you're a tech writer, what are you writing?
If you're creating tutorials and docs for your users, what are you focusing on? Remember, kicking ass and creativity usually doesn't happen at the data, information, and even the knowledge level. If you're not taking your users up the top tiers, you might be missing the chance to give them more inspiring (cognitively arousing?) experiences.
The idea (and a zillion variations including mine) of the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom (DIKW) hierarchy has been going around for quite some time (especially in knowledge management circles), but how come everyone isn't paying more attention to it?! Some are, of course--Richard Saul Wurman in particular, has made a point of referring to his work as "the understanding business", rather than stopping with information or even knowledge.
To read more about this announcement, please click on the link: Moving up the wisdom hierarchy
January 25, 2006
Defining the System to be Improved
Posted by The F. M. Duffy Group ,Educating change leaders about how to navigate whole-system change in school districts, Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Piecemeal change to improve schooling inside a school district is an approach that at its worst does more harm than good and at its best is limited to creating pockets of “good” within school districts. When it comes to improving schooling in a district, however, creating pockets of good isn’t good enough. Whole school systems need to be improved.
To transform an entire school system, change leaders in that system must
know what a system is and how it functions and they must be skillful in using a
set of systems thinking tools. This blog introduces you to both of these
To read this blog, click on the link: Defining the System to be Improved