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June 29, 2005

Design For A Self-Regenerating Organization

Dr. Michael C Geoghegan ([email protected]) and Dr. Paul Pangaro ([email protected])
Ashby Centenary Conference
March 4-6, 2004, University of Illinois, Urbana

Ashby’s Design for a Brain [Ashby 1952] comprises a formal description of the necessary and sufficient conditions for a system to act ‘like a brain,’ that is, to learn in order to remain viable in a changing environment, and to ‘get what it wants’. Remarkably, Ashby gives a complete, formal specification of such a system without any dependency on how the system is implemented. In this presentation the authors will argue how Ashby’s formalisms can be applied to human organizations.

All organizations seek to successfully carry out transactions that achieve their goals and assert their identity, whether to educate college students for employment, to govern a territory fairly, or to make money for shareholders. An organization’s transactions are predicated on agreements, and agreements in turn are based on conversations in a shared language. Thus human organizations are delimited by their operation in the domain of language, and Ashby’s ‘essential variables’ are the ‘shared truths’ of an organization—perturbed by the environment, regulated by employees’ actions, and carried in its language.
To read this article, click on the link: Design For A Self-Regenerating Organization.

Posted by ACASA on June 29, 2005 at 11:17 AM in Interesting | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 07, 2005

From Mechanistic to Social Systemic Thinking

Talk presented at "Systems Thinking in Action" conference - November 1993

Reprinted with permission of Pegasus Publishing -- http://www.pegasuscom.com/

Posted by popular demand, the transcript of Russell Ackoff's talk presented at the Systems Thinking in Action conference - November, 1993.

In this fascinating lecture, Ackoff states that we're in the early stages of a change of age - a period in which our world view is transforming from one theory of reality to another.

What happens to any age is the appearance of dilemmas - problems that challenge the validity of the current world view and cannot be solved within it. Such was the case during the Middle Ages - hence, the Renaissance. In our case, we are experiencing a shift from the Machine Age to the Systems Age. 

The Machine Age was characterized by belief in complete understandability of the universe, analysis as a method of inquiry, and cause and effect as a sufficient relationship to explain all.

The dilemma that disrupted such beliefs was systems thinking. The Machine Age began to die, Ackoff states, when we gave up the principle of understandability. Gradually, it's become accepted that there can be no complete understanding of the universe because nothing can be understood independently of its environment - all is environmentally relative. It began to be acknowledged that while analysis produces knowledge, it is synthesis that produces understanding. Furthermore, the Systems Age recognizes that cause and effect is just one way of looking at reality - there are an infinite number of ways.

To read this article, click on the link: From Mechanistic to Social Systemic Thinking.


Posted by ACASA on June 7, 2005 at 02:51 PM in Classics | Permalink | Comments (3)