russell ackoff

russell ackoff bw

intro’d to Russ via a tweet from Jennifer on this interview:

Uploaded on Jan 11, 2010

February 12, 1919 -October 29-2009. Dr. Ackoff was a pioneer
in Systems and Management Science. Producer Phyllis Haynes
interviewed him in 2001. 

data, information, understanding, knowledge,  – all concerned with increasing efficiency

wisdom… is concerned with effectiveness

where efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right thing..

drucker right thing law:

difference between doing things right and doing the right thing .. – Peter Drucker

it’s better to do the right things wrong than the wrong things right..

ie: curiosity over decision making

most problems today are consequences of doing the wrong things right..

instead of looking at the efficiency of objectives.. best to re-examine the objectives..

rather.. change the objectives.. ie: 2 needs and a cure.. via 2 convers as infra

ie: health care – it’s a sickness care system…trying to survive by maintaining sickness

education – our systems isn’t about learning, it’s about teaching, .. teaching is an obstruction to learning..

schools are upside down… should learn by teaching others..

rather.. let’s let go of schools..the supposed to’s.. of school/work are killing us.. making us like whales in sea world

it’s not a matter of efficiency, it’s a matter of effectiveness

like above.. begs we get ‘what we want to be effective at’ right first..

ie: eudaimoniative surplusfittingness; .. by focusing on just two things maté basic needs

you only learn from mistakes, you don’t learn from doing things right

2 kinds of mistakes – omission (didn’t do something you should have) and commission (doing something you shouldn’t have done).. 

errors of omission are much more important than errors of commission

accounting systems we use – only record costs of errors of commission… when you don’t do something.. it never appears..

money (any form of measuring/accounting) is a killer

now you’re in an organization that says making a mistake is a bad thing

the only kind you record – doing something you shouldn’t have done.. how do you minimize the chance of doing something you shouldn’t have done….?

by doing nothing..

it’s our treatment of error that leads to a stability that prevents significant change..

we have to start to recognize the importance of errors of omission… requires a new way of thinking..

what grand omissions?

national level – we’re not facing the central problem confronting the world – the maldistribution of wealth, standard of living and quality of life. – and not facing it produces the unrest that creates the mess we’re in today.. 

we have to go deeper.. ie: central problem: missing pieces .. or the dance of an undisturbed ecosystem will never dance

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows


like – measurable (efficiency) vs useable/useful (effectiveness)



the reason for the failures is primarily the fact that they have not been embedded in systems thinking”…

when a system is taken a part.. it looses its essential property.. not a sum of parts

performance depends on how parts fit.. not how taken individually..


improvement must be directed at what you want not at what you don’t want

asking yourself.. what would you do right now if you could do whatever you wanted to.. because if you don’t know what you would do if you could do whatever you wanted to .. how in the world could you know what you can do under constraints..

continuous improvement isn’t nearly as important as discontinuous improvement.. creativity is a discontinuity.. a creative act.. breaks..  with the chain that has come before it.. it’s not continuous.. one never becomes a leader by continuously improving.. that’s imitation of the leader.. you never become a leader by imitating them and improving slightly.. you only become a leader by leap frogging those who are ahead of you.. and that comes about thru creativity

drucker – distinction between doing things right .. and doing the right thing..  japanese are doing things right.. but they’re doing the wrong thing.. auto is destroying urban life.. pollution is so bad.. and then we talk about the quality automobiles.. that’s the wrong concept of quality.. quality ought to contain the notion of value.. not merely efficiency… diff between efficiency and effectiveness is diff between knowledge and wisdom


wikipedia small

Russell Lincoln Ackoff (12 February 1919 – 29 October 2009) was an American organizational theorist,consultant, and Anheuser-Busch Professor Emeritus of Management Science at the Wharton School,University of Pennsylvania. Ackoff was a pioneer in the field of operations research, systems thinking andmanagement science.


money ness