“This book is a product of applying systems thinking to the management and organization of enterprises”. Russel L. Ackoff writes, “therefore, an understanding of the nature of systems and systems thinking is essential for understanding what this book is about. Although most people can identify many different systems, few know precisely what a system is. Without such knowledge, one cannot understand them, and without such an understanding, one cannot be aware of their implications for their management and organization and for treatment of the most important problems that currently face them” (p.5).
Thus, he firstly argues that a system is a whole consisting of two or more parts that satisfies the following five conditions:
(1). The whole has one or more defining properties or functions.
(2). Each part in the set can affect the behavior or properties of the whole.
(3). There is a subset of parts that is sufficient in one or more environments for carrying out the defining function of the whole; each of these parts is necessary but insufficient for carrying out this defining function.
(4). The way that each essential part of a system affects its behavior or properties depends on (the behavior or properties of) at least one other essential part of the system.
(5). The effect of any subset of essential parts on the system as a whole depends on the behavior of at least one other such subset.
In 1970 I taught from this book when it was entitled “Choice, Communication and Conflict”
What makes this book “magical” is Ackoff (from his management and behavioral science roots) provides “operational definitions” for many ill-defined words and concepts — from defining ‘knowledge’ & ‘understanding’ to providing definitions of feelings/emotions that — operationally — you know — that if certain events take place in a person’s life, that you know the feeling they have.
This is only a glimmer of what this book is about. In terms of Kuhn’s idea of “paradigm shifts” — this book represents a shift that has yet to be appreciated, thirty years later!
Russell Ackoff 5.0 out of 5 stars Taking learning seriously, December 12, 2008 By Scott D. Gray (Marlborough, MA United States) – See all my reviews In modern America, everyone and his brother believes that the educational system is broken. But most people suggest responding with more of the same, rather than rethinking what learning is actually about. When the economy does well, people claim that it must be because of the education system and propose spending more money. When it does poorly, people say that it must be because we don’t spend enough on education and propose spending more. Ackoff and Greenberg go back to first principals, and to daily experiences, to consider how people learn, and how education might be restructured. What they propose really does turn the modern vision of school on its head. Why do schools in the US — the land of the free and the home of the brave — condition children to be passive and to wait on authority? There is only one suggestion or conclusion that I question. There is an argument posited by one of the authors (Ackoff, I think) for an elaborate voucher system. However, the history of governments’ tendency to want to manage how government money is spent would likely crush the innovation that is needed — pushing and encouraging private schools to recoil further from innovation and the cutting edge, and thereby eliminating the laboratories for reform of education. That said, the appeal for a voucher system is a very secondary aspect of the book, and does not distract from the arguments, message, and information.
1. Integrity is not just about honor–it is about wholeness of view, completeness of effort, and accuracy or reliability of all of the elements of the whole.
2. Industrial-Era Systems do not adapt because they lack integrity and continue to pay for doing the wrong things righter–the Pentagon is a classic example of such as system.
3. In the 21st Century, intelligence, design, and integrity are the triad that matters most. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is the non-negotiable starting position for getting it right, and this is crucially important with respect to the sustainability of the Earth as a home for humanity.
4. Integrity at the top requires clarity, diversity, and BALANCE–it makes no sense for a Secretary of Defense to continue to screw over the 4% that take 80% of the casualties, spending 80% of the Pentagon budget on the 20% that do not take casualties (occupants of really big expensive things that do not actually go into harm’s way).
5. Integrity can be compounded or discounted. It is compounded when public understanding demands political accountability and flag officers ultimately understand that they have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, not support the chain of command. It is discounted when flag officers are careerists, ascribe to rankism, and generally betray the public interest in favor of personal advancement.
6. Integrity is ultimately a natural attribute of large groups, and emerges from self-organizing over time. The Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom is one example; the break-up of the Balkans another; the pending secession of Hawaii and Vermont from the United STATES of America a third. Legitimate grievances give the aggrieved the moral high ground–this is a power no government can repress.
7. Universal access to connectivity and content is a means of accelerating both public access to the truth, and the power of the public to off-set “rule by secrecy,” which inherently lacks integrity across the board.
EXCUSES most commonly heard:
1) I work for the government, we serve the public, I consider myself part of the government, not part of the public, and indeed, choose not to vote or otherwise be active as a citizen.
2) The public elects the politicians, they appoint the leadership, serving the chain of command is how one serves the public.
1) Citizenship trumps occupational role. Every employee is supposed to be a citizen first, a public servant second. They swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, that includes a responsibility to protect the public from predatory government actions – the recent assassination of a US citizen without due process is a reprehensible example of what happens with uniformed officers and civil servants become morally disengaged.
2) Information asymmetries between the public and the government are such that a democracy demands whistle-blowers and open government. Rule by secrecy is a form of tyranny, a means of avoiding accountability, and ultimately a clear and present danger to the Constitution, the Republic, and the public interest. Because of their Oath, it can be said that government employees have a special responsibility to detect and confront fraud, waste, and abuse – and certainly to disobey and declare illegal orders and plans or programs inconsistent with the Constitution, such as wars not authorized by Congress, or assassinations not based on the rule of law.
In brief, all of our government employees have been “coping out” and failing to live up to their fullest potential as citizens and human beings. To be silent and complacent is to be a slave, not a citizen. Any employee of the government that fails to think about the Constitution and their role in defending the Constitution at every level on every day across every issue area, is failing to honor their Oath of office.
“INTEGRITY: A POSITIVE MODEL THAT INCORPORATES THE NORMATIVE PHENOMENA OF MORALITY, ETHICS, AND LEGALITY”
Academic Paper in Progress
Werner Erhard and Professor Michael C. Jensen discuss their positive model of integrity that links integrity and personal and corporate performance. They address integrity in a developing academic paper, whose primary purpose is to present a positive model of integrity that provides a powerful access to increased performance for individuals, groups, organizations, and societies.
The creation of this model reveals a causal link between integrity and increased performance. Through the work of clarifying and defining what integrity is and it’s causal link to performance, this model provides access to increased performance for private individuals, executives, economists, philosophers, policy makers, leaders, legal and government authorities.
Phi Beta Iota: In late 2009 we pointed to a very important paper in Reference: Integrity–Without it Nothing Works. That first posting focused on the US member of the two-person team doing all of this original work. Now we focus on Werner Erhard, whose home page offers a rich combination of background plus a diversity of supporting sources.
Below are a handful of links, we strongly recommend deep attention to every aspect of the web site. Integrity is a theme that runs through history and the work of, among others, Will Durant and Buckminster Fuller and Robert Steele. These two authors, Mssrs. Erhard and Jensen, better than anyone else in modern time, have articulated the pragmatic paradigmatic role that integrity plays in doing what Russell Ackoff calls “doing the right things” and Kent Myers calls “reflexive practice.
The Systems Community of Inquiry is an open, worldwide network of individuals interested in systems thinking, the systems sciences and/or systems practice.
Inquiry is “an activity which produces knowledge”(Churchman, 1971). We’re more than a community of interest, but less than a community of practice (Wenger, 1999). Our interactions as a community will (i) foster interactions contributing knowledge and wisdom to the online world, and (ii) cultivate social relationships between systemicists.
Phi Beta Iota: With the publication of Reflexive Practice–Professional Thinking for a Turbulent World, Dr. Kent Myers has emerged as a trail-blazer reconnecting those active in this area with a larger body of thinkers focused on Collective Intelligence and Public Intelligence. Their most recent intellectual forebearers are Russell Ackoff of Penn State University and John N. Warfield of George Mason University. The latest post focuses on the role of negative feedback loops in creating social dysfunction. Red light camaras, for example, have increased rear-end collisions at stop lights.
Phi Beta Iota: Government is broken. Ron Paul has that exactly right. It is broken for two reasons: first because over time those spending the money have grown distant from those providing the money, the individual taxpayers, AND from reality. The second reason it is broken is because knowledge itself has become fragmented, and “systems thinking” has fallen by the wayside.
Below are three quotes from a tremendous reference of lasting value to every citizen and policymaker.
ONE: Reformations and transformations are not the same thing. Reformations are concerned with changing the means systems employ to pursue their objectives. Transformations involve changes in the objectives they pursue.
TWO: The righter we do the wrong thing, the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. This is very significant because almost every problem confronting our society is a result of the fact that our public policy makers are doing the wrong things and are trying to do them righter.