November 05, 2014
On Business School's Allleged Education
Russell L. Ackoff
Keynote Speech at the Hull University Business School, 2005
When I retired from Wharton as a member of the regular faculty and became emeritus I was asked to reflect on the value of a business school education. I endeared myself to the faculty by identifying what I thought to be the three most important values of such an education.
- First, it equips students with a vocabulary that enables them to talk with authority about subjects they do not understand.
- Second, it inculcates them with principles of management and organization that have demonstrated their ability to withstand any amount of disconfirming evidence.
- Third, and this is what makes business school education worthwhile —it provides a ticket of admission to a job that provides a chance to learn what should have been learned in business school but wasn’t.
To read the speech, download the following file: Download UK TALK 05
February 20, 2014
GRADUATE EDUCATION – An Idealized Design
Russell L. Ackoff notes 3/3/2006
Education, as previously noted, involves subjects and practices. A subject is a body of information, knowledge and/or understanding that can be learned by reading and listening to relevant material and, in some cases, by engaging in exercises. Examples of subjects are history, literature, logic, mathematics, and economics. Practices, on the other hand, are activities that can only be leaned by engaging in them. Such learning can be significantly supplemented and consolidated by reading and listening. Examples are the practices of medicine, law, and architecture.
The importance of the distinction between subjects and practices becomes apparent when we take the position that graduate education should be exclusively directed at practices, even the practice of teaching or conducting research on subjects. It is this characteristic of graduate education, as we see it that dictates many of the properties it ought to have. It is also this characteristic that differentiates it from undergraduate education.
please click the link to read more Download Ackoff -- Graduate design
January 08, 2014
Thinking About the Future
By Russell L. Ackoff
This is the transcript of the talk given by late Russell Ackoff at the Tällberg (Sweden) Forum 2005:
"I am not the right person to have been assigned the topic, “Thinking about the Future.” I am a presentologist, not a futurologist.
So much time is currently spent in worrying about the future that the present is allowed to go to hell. Unless we correct some of the world’s current systemic deficiencies now, the future is condemned to be as disappointing as the present.
My preoccupation is with where we would ideally like to be right now. Knowing this, we can act now so as constantly to reduce the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Then, to a large extent, the future is created by what we do now. Now is the only time in which we can act."
To download the transcript click on: Download Ackoff's Tallberg talk DOC copy 1
October 13, 2013
A Major Mistake that Managers Make
Full Transcript of the Talk given by Russell L. Ackoff at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.
All through school we are taught that making a mistake is a bad thing. We are downgraded for them. When we graduate and enter the real world and the organizations that occupy it, the aversion to mistakes continues. As a result one tries either to avoid them or, if one is made, to conceal it or transfer blame to another.
We pay a high price for this because one can only learn from mistakes; by identifying and correcting them .
To read the transcript, Download Ackoff: A major mistake that managers make.
July 19, 2013
On Organizational Learning as Dealt With By Chris Argyris and Russ Ackoff
By Russ Ackoff
In 1999, as a result of inquiries made by his clients, colleagues and students, Dr. Ackoff wrote the attached memo. In this memo he explains the differences between Chris Argyris and himself on the subject of organizational learning.
To read the memo download the attached pdf file.
October 20, 2011
Philosophical Speculations On Systems Design
C. West Churchman
This working paper was written in 1973, Center for Research in Management Science, University of California, Berkeley. The original paper is kept at the archives of the Russell Lincoln Ackoff Systems Thinking Library at the Organizational Dynamics Graduate Studies, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania.
To download the paper click on the link: Download Philosophical Speculations on Systems Design -West Churchman
April 02, 2011
A conversation between Russell Ackoff and Edward Deming
This is the unedited transcript of the only conversation between Ackoff and Deming, as moderated by Clare Crawford Mason. This transcript reveals the views of two pre-eminent thinkers in systems thinking. They discuss the relevancy and the application of a systems worldview to intractable problems and societal ills.
The conversation took place in l992 and was edited and released as Volume 21 of The Deming Library series in l993. It is called "A Theory of a System for Educators and Managers" It is available from CC-M Productions and includes a second DVD with discussion/teaching guides for it and the rest of the Deming Library at The CC-M website @ www.managementwisdom.com
Drs. Deming and Ackoff explain why systems theory is essential knowledge for managing an organization in a world of change and uncertainty. Dr. Ackoff discusses synthesis as a necessary logic for understanding why a system behaves the way it does. He contrasts synthesis with analysis, which is useful for understanding how an organization and its units operate. Analysis is synonymous with thinking in the traditions of Western cultures.
Dr. Ackoff was fond of saying the East is learning scientific thinking more rapidly than the West is learning systems thinking. The combination of the two is the next leap forward in ability to manage and predict change and complexity.
To read this transcript download the attached PDF file.
November 10, 2010
On business school’s alleged education
By Late Russell L. Ackoff
The talk was given in 2005, to the students and faculty at the University of Hull - Business School
Cottingham Rd, Hull, North Humberside HU601482 347 500, United Kingdom.
A pdf file is attached. Download UK TALK 05
November 07, 2010
Russell Ackoff, Wharton Professor, Reveals Ancient Management Secret
By Clare Crawford-Mason
(This article is based on remarks made at a Conference on Systems Theory at Villanova University, St. Davids, PA., March 4-6 celebrating the 80th Birthday of author and consultant Russell Ackoff, the Anheuser-Busch Professor Emeritus of Management Science at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.)
Russell Ackoff, a pioneer in systems thinking, teaches us to manage the things we can’t control as life becomes more and more complex and change more and more rapid. He has written numerous books and helped American industry and government begin to meet the challenges of the third millennium. His many clients include General Motors and the White House. But his greatest contribution has gone unrecognized.
It involves the heretofore secret history of the origins of systems thinking --- that way of looking simultaneously at an organization or a family or basketball team and seeing the parts, the whole and the interactions and beginning to understand how to make the organization or the team greater than the sum of its parts. It is a hot topic in business circles today.
Most people, if they think about it at all, believe that systems thinking was discovered this century by a number of academics who spoke in big words and complex theories. Actually, the beginnings of systems thinking are obscured in the mists of pre-history on the African savannah when an aging woman, about 30, became increasingly distressed as she noticed that her teenage son was becoming bigger and stronger everyday and his father, her mate, was becoming older and weaker every day. And the two men weren’t getting along.
She had seen many such situations like this end badly. So she talked to some of the other mothers about how to do more than solve the immediate problem—to permanently dissolve it. She finally came up with the idea of calling the three of them “a family.” She talked to her mate about how his traits and ideas could be carried forward in the future and that the son might help them out when they got older and couldn’t work anymore. He was grumpy and not interested in discussing the idea of a “family.” Nor was the son, but they said OK and were able to continue to live together more peacefully and cooperatively.
Generations later, another woman gathering seeds and fruits with the other mothers noticed that more grain was growing where they had accidentally spilled seeds last year. One of the women said, “Let’s dump some seeds here deliberately and see what happens next year.”
Another woman had the idea of poking with sticks the ground where they dropped the seeds. Others of the women suggested watering the seeds. And in later years, after they were able to harvest more food and feed more people, they tried to explain to their mates that as part of the group each had thought of something important to do and that no one of them could have had all those good ideas. The men were too busy to listen; they were inventing weapons and private property and deciding who would own the extra fruits and grains.
Over the years, the women talked among themselves as they made baskets. They realized that if each cooperated and did a separate task in basket-making and food preparation and passed it on to the next, they could get the work done quicker and better and have more time to carry water. They tried to explain the idea of cooperative process improvement to their husbands and sons, but the men weren’t interested; in fact they were annoyed. They were busy inventing race distinction, gender roles and hierarchy.
However, the women kept passing on their ideas, advice and knowledge of working together, of healing herbs and cooking spices to their daughters. They told them that from watching their children and talking to each other as they produced cloth and baskets, they had learned that almost everyone had different and valuable points of view. They also told them not to bother their fathers and brothers with this kind of talk. The men were busy inventing competition and rugged individualism. The women’s ideas just upset them and the men were bigger and stronger. The best things to do with men, the mothers told their daughters, was to feed them when they were hungry and leave them alone when they were tired.
And so this information about cooperation, continual improvement, the value of diverse points of view and placating those who are bigger and stronger was passed from mother to daughter over the generations. My mother told me about these ancient ideas right after she explained about the birds and the bees and she warned me not to upset my father or my brothers by discussing either with them.
So years later, in l980, when I was a senior producer at NBC and I produced a documentary on W. Edwards Deming, the American who taught the Japanese and the American auto and electronic industries to work smarter, I was surprised when he mentioned this new idea called “systems theory.” But because of his difficult and different vocabulary I didn’t realize that what he was talking about was those ancient ideas that my mother had passed onto me.
Then, about seven years ago, I met Russell Ackoff and to my surprise he could explain systems theory better than any woman I had ever met. But, much more importantly, he could explain it to men.
And so, I want to toast Dr. Ackoff on the occasion of his 80th birthday, because he has finally made equality of the sexes possible. And, of course, I want to toast his mother, Fanny Ackoff, whom I suspect taught him how.
Clare Crawford-Mason, former NBC News Senior Producer and Washngton Bureau Chief of People Magazine, is the producer of “The Deming Video Library,” “Better Management for a Changing World” video series and co-author of Thinking About Quality: Progress Wisdom and the Deming Philosophy and Quality or Else The Revolution in World Business.
February 01, 2007
Towards A System of Systems Concepts
Russell L. Ackoff
Originally published in Management Science, Vol. 17, No. 11, July 1971
The concepts and terms commonly used to talk about systems have not themselves been organized into a system. An attempt to do so is made here. System and the most important types of system are defined so that differences and similarities are made explicit. Particular attention is given to that type of system of most interest to management scientists: organizations. The relationship between a system and its parts is considered and a proposition is put forward that all systems are either variety increasing or variety decreasing relative to the behavior of its parts.
To read this article, please download the pdf file: Download AckoffSystemOfSystems.pdf