May 31, 2020

Is there a more apt example of trying to ‘do the wrong thing right” than in our schools?

So why bring it up yet again? Well, for me at least, two words: Russell Ackoff.

A couple of weeks ago, thanks to some serendipitous surfing online, I came across this 10-minute snip of an interview with Ackoff, a pioneer in the field of systems thinking who was a professor at the Wharton School prior to his death in 2009. I was staggered a bit after watching it because he was able to articulate something I have been feeling for a while now but had been unable to find the words for:

“Peter Drucker said, ‘There’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.’ Doing the right thing is wisdom, and effectiveness. Doing things right is efficiency. The curious thing is the righter you do the wrong thing the wronger you become. If you’re doing the wrong thing and you make a mistake and correct it you become wronger. So it’s better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. Almost every major social problem that confronts us today is a consequence of trying to do the wrong things righter.”

Here’s the video.

I’ve been thinking about Ackoff pretty much consistently since I watched it, and the application of that lens to our current practice in schools is profound. Can there be a more apt example of trying to “do the wrong thing right” than in schools? Look again at that list above. Are we in search of efficiency, or effectiveness?

I think the answer is obvious. If you watch the clip, you’ll hear Ackoff dive into the education issue head on. He says, and I agree, that the system is not about learning (effectiveness). It’s about teaching (efficiency). And believe me, I understand why we have that focus. Given our devotion to an overstuffed curriculum, standardized tests, “college and career readiness” and more, about the only way we can see our students navigating the school experience is to “teach” it, to organize it, pace it, and assess it in some way that allows us to confer the adjective “educated” to each student. This despite the obvious truth that the vast majority of what we “learn” in school is quickly forgotten, and the truest “education” for our life’s work comes on the job, not in school

Is there a more apt example of trying to ‘do the wrong thing right” than in our schools?

Posted by ACASA on May 31, 2020 at 08:50 PM in Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 04, 2019

‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching’

In their book, Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track, authors Russell L. Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg point out that today’s education system is seriously flawed — it focuses on teaching rather than learning. “Why should children — or adults — be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can?” the authors ask in the following excerpt from the book. “Why doesn’t education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?”


“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.”
   — Oscar Wilde

‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching’

Posted by ACASA on January 4, 2019 at 12:07 PM in Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 04, 2014

Transforming the Systems Movement

By Russell L. Ackoff

Posted on 3/31/2014

The situation the world is in is amess. This hardly requires documentation; it's obvious. Furthermore, as Leslie Gelb observed (1991), the prospects for improvement are not promising: the emerging world requires a new foreign policy agenda, and fresh faces to execute that agenda. The trouble is, the same old "experts" are still running foreign policy and most of them only dimly understand the world they preside over. Indeed, few people today, in or out of Government, have the backgroundand skills to grasp, let alone direct, the new agenda.
Reform will not do it; transformations are required, two kinds. First a transformation of the way nations and international institutions handle gobal affairs and second, a transformation in the way systems thinkers collectively conduct the systems movement. The second must come first if we hope to have any effect on the global mess.
To read more click here: Transforming the Systems Movement

Posted by ACASA on April 4, 2014 at 10:29 PM in blog post, Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

Posted by ACASA on March 31, 2014 at 11:25 PM in blog post, Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 20, 2012

Audi announces new design strategy

In discussing Audi’s new cooperative vehicle design approach, Achim Badstübner [1], 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 “ 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 [2] 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.

[1] “Audi announces new design strategy,” Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 at 5:44 pm by Rose Etherington,  Dezeen Magazine, December 19, 2012

[2] Barabba, Vincent; The Decision Loom, Triarchy Press, Stanton, UK 2011, Pages 193-198

Posted by ACASA on December 20, 2012 at 01:46 PM in Blogger Search, Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

If Russ Ackoff had given a TED Talk...

Posted by ACASA on August 22, 2012 at 03:37 PM in Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

Posted by ACASA on August 25, 2009 at 10:34 PM in Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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

Posted by ACASA on March 8, 2009 at 11:10 PM in Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2006

Reframing Reality

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

Posted by ACASA on December 28, 2006 at 09:20 AM in Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 

Posted by ACASA on July 25, 2006 at 11:26 AM in Blogger Search | Permalink | Comments (0)