March 10, 2021

Russell Ackoff Doctoral Student Fellowships

The 2021-2022 call for proposals is open!  The deadline to apply is March 22, 2021.

Since 2006, the Russell Ackoff Doctoral Student Fellowship program of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center has provided grants to University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. students who are pursuing research in decision making under risk and uncertainty.  The research fellowships are named in honor of an endowment provided to the Wharton School by the Anheuser-Busch Charitable Trust.  Professor Emeritus of Management Science, Russell Ackoff’s work was dedicated to furthering our understanding of human behavior in organizations.

For 2021, the program will provide a small number of grants to doctoral students conducting research directly related to the Risk Center’s current research agenda. Potential topics to receive funding should align thematically with one of our five research labs: (1) disaster risk management, (2) business, climate, and the environment, (3) risk communication & decision-making, (4) behavioral science & technology, and (5) political risk.  We encourage students to visit the lab websites to better understand current priority topics.

The fellowship provides up to $4,000 for research support. Proposals can reflect a broad range of theoretical and methodological perspectives.  The funds may be used only for data collection, surveys, and other direct research expenses.

Award recipients are required to write at least one blog post for the Risk Center’s blog, Lab Notes, based on their research. Blog posts should generally be 1,000-2,000 words in length and be written for an educated, lay audience. Award recipients will also be invited to participate in the Center’s junior research seminar, designed to provide early-stage scholars with the opportunity to present their research and receive feedback on their work.

To apply: Please submit your proposal and the application form to Carol Heller at [email protected].

Recent recipients of the Wharton Risk Center Russell Ackoff Doctoral Student Fellowships:

Posted by ACASA on March 10, 2021 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 28, 2021

Cleanroom monitoring: How to make the most of your data

The DIKUW hierarchy (short for data, information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom) helps generate useful insights to help escape the overwhelming feeling of drowning in data. Writes Microgenetics' Andrew Davies and Daniel Taylor

The DIKUW hierarchy

Before we go any further, we want to make one thing clear: this article will not tell you what to do with your data. That would be impossible; we don't know any particulars about your facility or what it is you're trying to achieve. Instead, we'll show you how to use the DIKUW hierarchy: Data, Information, Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom.

The DIKUW is a framework that we've found invaluable for thinking about data and generating useful insights. It isn't a prescriptive guide but an outline of a typical data journey. It will help you see where you are in your data journey and what to expect. It will also help you understand the limitation of data.

Systems theorist Russell Ackoff outlined the DIKUW hierarchy in his paper "From Data to Wisdom" in 1989 and described it as a 5-step process that we all go through as individuals and institutions, transforming data into wisdom.

Cleanroom monitoring: How to make the most of your data

Posted by ACASA on February 28, 2021 at 11:04 AM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 31, 2021

How to clean up the innovation mess

By  –  Contributing Writer

According to the late Wharton Professor Russell Ackoff, attempting to innovate without first validating customer demand is a "mess."

Indeed, any situation that has “arguable issue definition and arguable solutions” is a mess.

If you do not confirm that a customer need is important and unsatisfied before generating ideas, then you are creating a mess. First, identify your customers’ unmet needs and then solve their problems.

Never get bogged down testing ideas again

Many organizations get bogged down testing a lot of bad ideas. I know one organization that abandoned its entire stage-gate new product development process because the frontend seemed hopelessly bogged down. This is totally unnecessary and should never happen.

Yet it happens because organizations mistakenly think that “innovation begins with an idea.” Not true. New product development starts with an idea, but innovation begins with an insight. Every fully formed new product idea is comprised of 1) an insight into the customers’ unmet needs, and 2) a novel way to address that unmet need better.

If you want to turn innovation into a repeatable business process, discover your customers’ unmet needs first and then solve their problems. A well-defined customer need is half-satisfied.

The challenge is that most organizations don’t know how to identify their target customers’ unmet needs. Consequently, they waste time and resources testing a lot of bad ideas. Contrary to popular opinion, any idea that does not address an important unsatisfied need is a “bad” idea. To test ideas that address unimportant needs is to major in the minors. And to test (and focus on) ideas that address needs that are already well-satisfied by the market may give you competitive parity if your customers are unsatisfied with your solution, but it won’t give you a competitive advantage since other competitors are already satisfying the need. Only those needs that your target market deems to be important and unsatisfied are opportunities for innovation and growth and worthy of pursuit.


What if you could identify and rank the biggest opportunities for innovation and growth in your market from the customers’ point of view, independent of any solutions, with statistical validity before generating any ideas? What if you knew where to focus and what to do to address unmet needs in a repeatable manner? Could that change the game for you?

Savvy organizations discover the unmet needs in their markets first and then generate ideas to address them. This changes the brainstorming mantra to, “There is no such thing as a bad idea as long as it addresses a known unmet need.” It also changes innovation from a game of chance into a repeatable business process.

Reveal needs. Create value. Drive growth.

How to clean up the innovation mess

Posted by ACASA on January 31, 2021 at 11:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 30, 2020

2021 CIO Goals: What Forces Will Shape 2021?

Is it time to return to the original 2020 plan? Or does 2021 need a fundamentally different game plan than envisioned for 2020?

"In this process, Gildersleeve says “take stock of what you were able to accomplish in 2020 and how the business has changed, and then invest in continued digital transformation to support these changes.”

Hinchcliffe finds in his research that “many CIOs are now just getting their arms around 2021, given the constant, ongoing operational issues of this year. It is time in this author's opinion for CIOs to heed the advice of futurist Russell Ackoff who said that “planning should consist of the design of a desirable future and the invention of ways to bring that future about. As well, planning should be continuous.”

2021 CIO Goals: What Forces Will Shape 2021?

Posted by ACASA on December 30, 2020 at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 29, 2020

Omni-channel focus rescues Central Retail’s bottom line

...........Redesign Shopping from Scratch

The first part of any such strategy is facing reality. Retailing executives must acknowledge that the new technologies will get faster, cheaper, and more versatile. They need to forecast the likely digital density in their categories and prepare for the effects. What should I do differently today if I believe that 20% of our sales will soon come from digital retailing—and that 80% of our sales will be heavily influenced by it? Should we be opening any new stores at all? And if so, how different should they be? How should we adjust to a world of greater price transparency? What happens when traffic-building categories shift online and no longer pull customers into our stores?

Situations like these call for start-from-scratch, across-the-board innovation. In the book Idealized Design: How to Dissolve Tomorrow’s Crisis…Today, coauthor Russell L. Ackoff recounts a similar turning point at Bell Labs in 1951. The vice president in charge of the labs asked a group to name the organization’s most important contributions to telephonic communications. The VP pointed out that each one, including the telephone dial and the coaxial cable, had been conceived and implemented before 1900. He challenged the group to assume that the phone system was dead and had to be rebuilt from scratch. What would it look like? How would it work? Soon Bell’s scientists and engineers were busy investigating completely new technologies—and came up with concepts for push-button phones, call waiting, call forwarding, voicemail, conference calls, and mobile phones. Retailers need the same start-over mentality.

The design specifications of omnichannel retailing are growing clearer by the day. Customers want everything. They want the advantages of digital, such as broad selection, rich product information, and customer reviews and tips. They want the advantages of physical stores, such as personal service, the ability to touch products, and shopping as an event and an experience. (Online merchants take note.) Different customer segments will value parts of the shopping experience differently, but all are likely to want perfect integration of the digital and the physical.

The challenge for a retailer is to create innovations that bring the vision to life, wowing those customers, and generating profitable growth. Let’s see what this might mean in practice.

Omni-channel focus rescues Central Retail’s bottom line

Posted by ACASA on November 29, 2020 at 10:41 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2020

Singapore Institute of Management launches centre for systems leadership

THE Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) has launched a Centre for Systems Leadership to train youths, professionals and organisational leaders to lead more successfully through systems thinking.

The centre, to be located in the existing SIM Management House in Namly Avenue, will run an 18-day programme for working professionals, spread over six months. It will also offer bespoke programmes, tailored for leadership teams in organisations and enterprises.

This is in addition to the 30-hour programmes it will run for youth leaders and final-year undergraduates from February. The centre is also planning its first systems leadership conference that same month.

Learning programmes will be run on-site. However, the centre is also working with collaborators to roll out online options from the first quarter of next year, said Seah Chin Siong, SIM's president and chief executive.

Singapore Institute of Management launches centre for systems leadership

Posted by ACASA on November 16, 2020 at 08:38 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2020

An intuitive introduction to systemic thinking

Attention is a resource

What a giant had to say

A long long time ago, when the teachers were still in the custody of young people's character, here is what William James had to tell them about this matter:

In what does a moral act consist? It consists in the effort of attention by which we hold fast to an idea which but for that effort of attention would be driven out of the mind by the other psychological tendencies that are there. To think, in short, is the secret of will, just as it is the secret of memory.

Attention has a purpose

Attention, and the emotion of interest which naturally directs it, are there for a purpose. Interest is what might move young people to explore and understand the world. And to exercise their minds and bodies.


But our industries have been able to separate this emotion from its purposes. They created games that engage only "other psychological tendencies", so that the effort of attention that sustains a moral act is never experienced; which keep children's attention away from reality; which exercise no more than their thumbs and their rear ends; whose ethical message is that killing is fun; and which are so "immersive" that they make everything else – and school in particular – seem dull in comparison.

What will prevent our young ones from virtually living in the virtual world? Where success is so much easier to experience; and even the ultimate failure can be reversed by pressing the restart button!

It's a complex world

For all we know, we may have created a complex and dangerous world, which will demand of our next generation the presence of a spirit that we ourselves haven't been able to muster.

We say "for all we know", because we don't really know. While some of our colleagues have done the research and concluded that our civilization may just barely make it, provided we make changes promptly, the rest of us continue to live and work just as we did before. Notice that we are not saying that our civilization is in trouble; others have said that. All we need in order to motivate our initiative follows from what we've just said. And it's anyhow obvious – it's that we do not know what our situation is and what we need to do; because the way in which we handle knowledge is keeping us from knowing.

And because also our attention has been mishandled.

An intuitive introduction to systemic thinking

Posted by ACASA on October 26, 2020 at 11:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2020

What Management Needs to Become in an Era of Ecosystems

"As with all management metaphors, talk of business ecosystems has some commentators asking: Is this really new? Weren’t companies always embedded in larger systems, and also made up of internal networks? Systems thinking in management, as pioneered by Hans Ulrich, Peter Gomez, and Fredmund Malik at St. Gallen University (and in America, by Jay Forrester, Russell Ackoff, and Peter Senge) has long been part of business school curricula. Indeed, Peter Drucker himself, decades ago, came up with the term “social ecology” to describe the nature of his work as he studied the workings of organizations and their impacts and integration with society.

What has changed is the technology that has us more connected and immersed in data than ever before. In today’s world of networking and collaboration software, big data, analytics, and AI, managers simply cannot continue to assume a carved-out model of the firm for the convenience of seeing how to manage it. Now that firms’ activities are so intertwined and their successes so interdependent, the old tools and techniques no longer work.

To succeed in the era of platforms and partnerships, managers will need to change practice on many levels. And with the new practices of ecosystem management must come new management theory, also reoriented around a larger-scale system-level view. Both practitioners and scholars can begin by dispensing with mechanistic, industrial-age models of inputs, processes, and outputs. They will have to take a more dynamic, organic, and evolutionary view of how organizations’ capacities grow and can be cultivated."

What Management Needs to Become in an Era of Ecosystems

Posted by ACASA on September 17, 2020 at 10:24 AM in Interesting | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2020

Message from Gerald Midgley RE: The Operational Research Society Online Annual Conference 15 - 17 September 2020

Systems Community:

This year, because the Operational Research Society cannot do a face-to-face conference, its event is free for everybody:

Instead of regular streams, each topic area has a representative 60-minute session.

Our Systems Thinking session will be delivered by Luis Sambo (Visiting Professor, Centre for Systems Studies, University of Hull; Ex-Director of WHO Africa) and Mike Jackson (Emeritus Professor and Founder, Centre for Systems Studies). Luis Sambo will talk about how Critical Systems Thinking informed his leadership of the WHO response to Ebola in Africa, and then Mike Jackson will follow up with lessons for handling covid-19 today. Subject to confirmation, this session will be at 1pm on 15 September 2020.

There will also be a Systems Thinking plenary speaker (one of only three streams honoured in this way). Ellen Lewis, Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Systems Studies will be talking about the systemic evaluation of development projects, with a focus on gender, environments and marginalized voices. Also subject to confirmation, this will be at 1pm on 16 September 2020.

Please sign up for this free conference below, and put both our Centre for Systems Studies contributions in your diary (and any others you would like to go to when you receive the final schedule).

**** STUDENT OFFER ***** PhD students, please note that you can get free membership of the Operational Research Society as long as you are a student. Sign up here:

Get ready to take your place at the profession’s flagship event – the Operational Research Society’s annual conference.
Get ready to take your place at the profession’s flagship event – the Operational Research Society’s annual conference.

Posted by ACASA on August 15, 2020 at 10:22 PM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 18, 2020

Russell L. Ackoff | Quotes | Systems Thinking Books

Russell L Ackoff (1919-2009) was a founding member of the system thinking movement. He was an organizational theorist and pioneer in operations research and management science. He was the first doctoral student of C. West Churchman. They later spent time together at the Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. Later they founded the systems thinking movement. Russell L. Ackoff translated data to wisdomHe once worked for D. Edwards Deming at the U.S. Census Bureau. Peter Drucker acknowledged that Russell L. Ackoff had made critical contributions to his work. Russell L. Ackoff authored or co-authored 35 books and over 150 journal articles, including the popular From Data to Wisdom.

Russell L. Ackoff developed empirical inquiry techniques and theory concerning interdisciplinary and interdependent system dynamics. He was a master reductionist about decision making in organizations. Russell L. Ackoff sought to amplify organizational learning across disciplines, especially for nonlinear, transdisciplinary modeling sciences. In the end, he sought to create a better understanding so that people were focused on the correct root cause issues so that they could be successful. Please scroll through his wonderful quotations to get to the videos.

Russell L. Ackoff | Quotes | Systems Thinking Books


Posted by ACASA on June 18, 2020 at 10:27 AM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)