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In2:InThinking Network Newsletter - Special Edition - Remembering Russ Ackoff   November 2009
If you've not yet heard the news, Russell Ackoff died on October 29th in Philadelphia, due to complications arising from hip surgery only the week before.   Needless to say, the excitement that accompanied this pain-relieving operation was soon replaced by great sorrow, as our mentor, friend, and colleague, but never to be called "guru" (see Russ"isms" below), died a few months before his 91st birthday. 
The In2:InThinking Network would like to add to the many tributes pouring in from around the world to honor the legendary Russell (call me "Russ") Ackoff.  We offer this special edition as a collection of the online offerings about Russ's life and his many contributions to all of our lives.  
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Obituary - From the Ackoff Collaboratory
Professor Russell L. Ackoff has been described as a Renaissance Man, architect, city planner, philosopher, behavioral scientist, trailblazer in the field of organizational operations, the pre-eminent authority on organizational systems theory, best-selling author, world traveler-even a humorist.  Recognized internationally as a pragmatic academic, Russ, as he was known to all, devoted most of his professional life to "dissolving" complex societal and organizational problems by engaging all stakeholders in designing solutions.
Born in Philadelphia to Jack and Fannie (Weitz) Ackoff, he completed undergraduate studies in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1941. From 1942 to 1946 he served in the U.S. Army, stationed in the Philippines. Upon returning from the war, he obtained a doctorate in the Philosophy of Science from Penn, where he met and married Alexandra Makar.

From 1947 to 1951 Dr. Ackoff was Assistant Professor in Philosophy and Mathematics at Wayne State University. It was here that he first sought to establish an institute devoted applying philosophical beliefs about the nature of man to the design and improvement of social institutions. In 1951, Ackoff and a group of colleagues were invited to join the Case Institute of Technology School of Engineering, where they were instrumental in establishing one of the world's first Departments of Operations Research, an accomplishment that still identifies Ackoff as the "Father of Operations Research."

In 1964 the fledgling graduate business program at the Wharton School recruited Ackoff and his colleagues. In 1980, the Social Systems Sciences Department was established at Wharton. This innovative program combined organizational design theory and practice, sought to escape traditional disciplinary bounds, and cultivated students motivated by independent thought and action.  

Link here to read the remainder of this article...

Link here to read comments posted on his obituary and to add yours as well... 
Obituary - From the Philadelphia Inquirer
When the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania hired Russell L. Ackoff in 1964, it didn't get one man. It got an eight-person team.

Director of the Operations Research Group at Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland at the time, he brought along seven of his colleagues to form the statistics and operations research department at Wharton. The hiring paid off. In 1971, in London, he received the silver medal of the British Operational Research Society.

Dr. Ackoff, 90, former chairman of Wharton's department of statistics and operations research, died Thursday at Paoli Hospital. The cause was complications from hip replacement surgery performed at another hospital.
Link here to read the remainder of this article... 
Obituary - From the Financial Times

Sad news over the weekend: Russ Ackoff has died. He was 90 years old.

Ackoff was the father of systems thinking, which in the context of management means that looking at problems in isolation is probably going to be a mistake. Work flows (or is supposed to) through a business or organisation, pulled through by customer (or user) demand. Tinkering with bits of the business without considering the whole is likely to lead to further problems.

I met Ackoff in London two years ago, when he was still in splendid form (as he was, apparently, right up until his sudden and unexpected death last week). He was a kindly, mellow, thoughtful man. And very witty.

"All of our [social] problems arise out of doing the wrong thing righter," he told me. "The more efficient you are at doing the wrong thing, the wronger you become. It is much better to do the right thing wronger than the wrong thing righter! If you do the right thing wrong and correct it, you get better."

There is a lot more to say about Ackoff and I hope to do so in a future column.

Link here to find this article by Stefan Stern online...
Russ"isms"....a sampling
In reading Russ's articles or books, or seeing him speak, as we did when we hosted him at our 2005 and 2006 Forums, he was well-known for his being outspoken on a wide variety of topics.  Here's a short sample.   Follow this link to a greater collection of Russ"isms", better known as Ackoff's f-Laws.
On Educators and Management Gurus... 
The appeal of gurus lies to a large extent in the simplicity of the doctrines they put forth. They are simple no matter how complex the problems at which they are directed. They provide a life raft to those managers who are incapable of handling complexity. (...)

Contrary to what happens in politics and religion, in business circles there are so many gurus competing for followers that no one of them can dominate the minds, let alone the emotions, of potential followers. (...)
Educators stand in sharp contrast to gurus. Educators do not try to bring thinking to a halt but to initiate it. They want their students to extend and expand the ideas they present and students are encouraged to question and modify without constraint. Educators want their solutions to be treated as beginnings, not ends. Gurus lead into; educators lead out of. Gurus provide ready-made solutions but educators provide ways of finding individualized solutions. (...)

An educator tries to transmit a way of thinking and a way of conducting inquiries. And he does not pretend that these are the only ways. Among other things, he recognizes that differences in personality lead those with different personalities to select different ways of thinking and behaving. 
On Business Schools (page 20)...

...I find that business schools tend to avoid the
important complex strategic problems that corporate management is currently involved with. Not too long ago at a meeting of the deans of business schools I
identified the set of six or seven corporate problems on which I was working. I asked them if any of them had courses that addressed such problems - not a single one of them was covered.

Managers are not confronted with problems that are independent of each other; but with dynamic situations that consist of complex systems of changing problems that interact with each other.  I call such situations messes....Managers do not solve problems, they manage messes
Celebration - UPENN - February
In addition to online tributes to Russ, plans are underway to host a public "Celebration of the Life of Russell Ackoff" at the University of Pennsylvania, likely in February.   Follow this link to find updates on the Ackoff Collaboratory website.
In addition, the December Ongoing Discussion conference call, hosted by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, will be dedicated to reflections on Russ's many contributions from his "Guys Group" of colleagues in Philadelphia.  Stay tuned for update on this session in the announcement for the November edition of the Ongoing Discussion.
And, if you missed Russ's participation as a Thought Leader in this conference call, dating back to January 2006, link here for his 2008 appearance and here for his 2009 appearance.  Enjoy!
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