September 19, 2008
How to sweep away a safety mess
In the current issue of ISHN, James E. Leemann, Ph.D. writes: " The safety and occupational health world is a total mess." He defines the "mess", and proposes the systems approach to dissolving the mess, based on the work of Russell Ackoff.
To read this article, please click on the following link: How to sweep away a safety mess
November 02, 2007
Leadership and Systems Thinking
April 19, 2007
Terrorism: A Systemic View
Russell L. Ackoff1* and Johan P. Stru¨mpfer2
1The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
2Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Broadly speaking, ‘terrorism’ is regarded as extremely violent behavior by what is normally considered to be a minority subgroup of society. The value system in which terrorism is imbedded is not universally shared within the larger society from which it emanates. Terrorists form a movement that pursues a cause defined by its aims which, in turn, are defined within a value framework that may be political, religious, social or economic. Its objective is to obtain acceptance of its value system and its aims. In pursuit of this objective it applies violence aimed at creating terror and anxiety in one or more target societies.
To read this article, please download the pdf file: Download Terrorism.pdf
Also, if you wish to see the ppt presentation, please click on: http://www.infoamerica.org/documentos_pdf/ackoff01.pdf
Originally published in:
Systems Research and Behavioral Science
Syst. Res.20, 287^294 (2003)
March 07, 2007
Why few organizations adopt systems thinking
BY: Russell L. Ackoff
I frequently talk to groups of managers on the nature of systems thinking and its radical implications to management. In doing so I use several case studies involving prominent American corporations. At the end of the presentation I am almost alwaysasked, "If this way of thinking is as good as you say it is, why don't more organizations use it?"
It is easy to reply by saying that organizations naturally resist change. This of course is a tautology. I once asked a vice president of marketing why consumers used his product. He answered, "Because they like it." I then asked him how he knew this. He answered, "Because the use it." Our answer to the question about failure of organizations to adopt systems thinking is seldom any better then this.
There be many reasons why any particular organization fails to adopt systems thinking but I believe there are two that are the most important, one general and one specific. By a general reason I mean one that is responsible for organizations failing to adopt any transforming idea, let alone systems thinking. By a specific reason I mean one responsible for the failure to adopt systems thinking in particular.
To read the rest of this article, please download the the pdf file: Download Why_few_aopt_ST.pdf
This article is also published in Systems Research and Behavioral Science. 23, 705-708 (2006).
March 08, 2006
Consumer Idealized Design: Involving Consumers in The Product Development Process
by Susan Ciccantelli and Jason Magidson
A product or service is designed effectively if it provides consumers with what they want, rather than merely removing what they do not want. But determining what consumers need or will want is an effort that does not often meet with success. In fact, suppliers' beliefs about consumers' wants have led to more product failures than successes. The main reason for this is not hard to understand: Consumers' needs and desires are elusive because consumers themselves generally have not consciously formulated what they are or how to fulfill them.
Even when consumers are aware of what they
want and are willing to reveal it, their wants are likely to be conditioned
by what is available. And when the product or service available is basically
unsatisfying to them, they are unlikely to reveal startling new desires or
concepts. At best, the typical ways in which
consumers are involved in product design-focus groups, surveys and questionnaires-tend to elicit mostly information about what they do not want, rather than startling new insights about what they really want or need. This is due in part to the fact that people often attempt to provide answers that they think the inquirer wants, rather than probe for their own preferences.
So the search continues, and product developers continue to seek ways to help consumers (1) become more aware of what they need or want, and (2) reveal these wants as accurately as possible. One such way, developed by Russell L. Ackoff, is a process called Consumer Idealized Design (Consumer Design).
To read this article, click on the link: Consumer Idealized Design: Involving Consumers in The Product Development Process.
February 01, 2006
A Major Mistake That Managers Make
By Russell L. Ackoff
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.
… in business, if mistakes are made and laws are not broken, you rarely see any formal investigation. Even when the companies themselves look into what happened, they don’t do it in a structured and rigorous way. They don’t learn anything from the process. (Mittelstaedt, Jr., 2005)
One does not learn from doing something right; one already knows how to do it. By doing something right one gets confirmation of what one already knows but no new knowledge. The fact that schools are more interested in teaching than in learning is apparent from their failure to determine if students learn from their mistakes. Once they are graded based on the number of mistakes they make, the teacher presses on, does not check to determine whether the student has learned from the mistakes made.
business schools, do not even reveal the fact that there are two kinds of
To read this article, click on the link: A Major Mistake That Managers Make
July 18, 2005
Social Network Analysis and Systems Change
Roberta M. Snow, Ph.D. and Evan A. Leach, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania and
Contact: Roberta M. Snow @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Snow and Leach provide an example of how systems methodology and social science methods have evolved on parallel tracks. Social network analysis provides a tool for systems thinkers and interventionists to describe and understand a system from its members points of view.
To read this article, click on the link: Social Network Analysis and Systems Change.
December 03, 2004
A Systemic View of Transformational Leadership
By Russell L. Ackoff
Systemic Practice and Action Research, (1998), 11(1), 23-36
What do systems thinkers think about leadership? Russell Ackoff provides his response, and goes further to describe "transformational" leadership. Important distinctions are drawn between the concepts of leadership and transformation, efficiency and effectiveness, growth and development. Ackoff discusses four types of systems and emphasizes that leaders must understand the particular nature of their system in order to achieve transformation.
To read this article, click on the link: A Systemic View of Transformational
A Systemic Transformation
Types of Systems: Deterministic, Animated, Social, Ecological
Transformational leaders are driven by ideas, not by the expectations of others. They are skillful at beating the system, not surrendering to it.
Transformational leaders must understand the nature of a system. A system is a functioning whole that cannot be divided into independent parts and be effective.
A system is transformed when the type of system it is thought to be is changed.
March 09, 2004
A Holistic Language of Interaction And Design
Seeing Through Chaos and Understanding Complexities
The version of systems methodology presented in this paper, developed by Jamshid Gharajedaghi, demonstrates a holistic language of interaction and design, intended for use with social systems in which the whole is becoming more interdependent while the parts display choice and behave
independently. This methodology gives us a way to see through chaos and understand complexities.
The foundation of this exciting conception is the interaction of four elements of systems thinking:
- Holistic Thinking -- ”iteration of structure, function and process"
- Operational Thinking -- ”understanding chaos and complexity"
- Systems Theories -- ”a socio-cultural view"
- Interactive Design -- "creating a feasible whole with infeasible parts"
To read this article, click on the link: Systems Methodology; A Holistic Language of Interaction And Design; Seeing Through Chaos and Understanding Complexities.
February 20, 2004
The Origins and Purposes of Several Traditions in Systems Theory and Cybernetics
In their paper, "The Origins and Purposes of Several Traditions in Systems Theory and Cybernetics," Stuart Umpleby and Eric Dent discuss some of the research traditions that have influenced the systems movement. The authors present an overview of various schools of thought, including general systems theory, the systems approach, operations research, system dynamics, learning organizations, total quality management, and cybernetics, and emphasize the importance of distinguishing the different traditions and their distinct concerns. The basic idea is that the different groups were asking somewhat different questions and hence developed different conceptions of systems theory.
To read this article, click on the link: The Origins and Purposes of Several Traditions in Systems Theory and Cybernetics.