Presentation by Ackoff on Systems, Design and the Society

Guest post by John Hunter, founder of curiouscat.com (in 1996).

This video shows part 2 of a Russell Ackoff presentation from 2003 (see our previous post on part 1: Ackoff on Systems Thinking and Management).

As Russell Ackoff does so often, he starts this part of the presentation with a well told story to illustrate his point.

I cannot understand the way a part is functioning independently of the whole of which it is a part.

In this presentation, Ackoff also tells the great story of idealized design at Bell Labs. I first heard him tell that story in person at the Hunter Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, and I have heard it several times since. It is well worth listening to.

The first critical principle of management ought to be: effective management must be directed at what you want, not against what you don’t want.

As he says, eliminating what you don’t want doesn’t necessarily give you what you do want.

This part of the presentation wraps up with a look at the evolution of our thinking of corporations and their purpose; Ackoff quotes Peter Drucker:

Profit is to a corporation what oxygen is to a person, necessary for its existence but not the reason for it.

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