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Doing, not-doing; errors of commission, errors of omission

Should we do, or not-do?  Russell Ackoff, over many years, wrote about (negative) potential consequences:

There are two possible types of decision-making mistakes, which are not equally easy to identify.

  • (1) Errors of commission: doing something that should not have been done.
  • (2) Errors of omission: not doing something that should have been done.

For example, acquiring a company that reduces a corporation’s overall performance is an error of commission, as is coming out with a product that fails to break even. Failure to acquire a company that could have been acquired and that would have increased the value of the corporation or failure to introduce a product that would have been very profitable is an error of omission  [Ackoff 1994, pp. 3-4].

Ackoff has always been great with turns of phrases such as these.  Some deeper reading evokes three ideas that may be worth further exploration:

  • 1. Doing or not-doing may or may not invoke learning.
  • 2. Doing or not-doing invokes implicit orientations on time.
  • 3. Doing or not-doing raises question of (i) changes via systems of willful action, and/or (ii) changes via systems of non-intrusive action.

These three ideas, explored in sections below, lead us from the management of human affairs, beyond questions of science, and into question of philosophy.

For those interested in the history of philosophy and science, the three ideas above are followed by an extra section:

Read more (in a new tab)

Should we do, or not-do?  Russell Ackoff, over many years, wrote about (negative) potential consequences:

There are two possible types of decision-making mistakes, which are not equally easy to identify.

  • (1) Errors of commission: doing something that should not have been done.
  • (2) Errors of omission: not doing something that should have been done.

For example, acquiring a company that reduces a corporation’s overall performance is an error of commission, as is coming out with a product that fails to break even. Failure to acquire a company that could have been acquired and that would have increased the value of the corporation or failure to introduce a product that would have been very profitable is an error of omission  [Ackoff 1994, pp. 3-4].

Ackoff has always been great with turns of phrases such as these.  Some deeper reading evokes three ideas that may be worth further exploration:

  • 1. Doing or not-doing may or may not invoke learning.
  • 2. Doing or not-doing invokes implicit orientations on time.
  • 3. Doing or not-doing raises question of (i) changes via systems of willful action, and/or (ii) changes via systems of non-intrusive action.

These three ideas, explored in sections below, lead us from the management of human affairs, beyond questions of science, and into question of philosophy.

For those interested in the history of philosophy and science, the three ideas above are followed by an extra section:

Read more (in a new tab)

“The Emerging Science of Service Systems”, Organizational Dynamics Lecture Series, University of Pennsylvania, February 15, 2010

I attended the Memorial Service for Russell Ackoff at the University of Pennsylvania in February.  Since I was already in Philadelphia, I was invited to hang out for an extra day to present at the Organizational Dynamics Lecture Series, as part of the master’s program in the School of Arts and Sciences.  I gave a talk on “The Emerging Science of Service Systems”, based on the research that I’ve been doing since I first saw Jim Spohrer speak at the ISSS 2005 meeting in Cancun.

I had previously posted the slides for the talk on the Coevolving Innovation Commons Publications archive.  An outline for the talk is as follows:

  • A. Introduction
  • B. The “new service economy” and SSMED
  • C. The systems in service systems
  • D. Artifacts / feeds to follow

The presentation is now available as a web video on the University of Pennsylvania media site for the School of Arts and Sciences.

I’m one, but not the only, researcher looking into Service Science, Engineering, Management and Design from the foundations of a systems approach.  A group from the ISSS has been having conversations on the emerging science. Following the question-and-answer period after the formal talk, some students stayed on to ask questions about systems in more depth.  The University of Pennsylvania, with a long tradition of systems thinking, continues to attract students with that interest!

The Organizational Dynamics program is now the home of the Russell Lincoln Ackoff Systems Thinking Library. … Read more (in a new tab)

I attended the Memorial Service for Russell Ackoff at the University of Pennsylvania in February.  Since I was already in Philadelphia, I was invited to hang out for an extra day to present at the Organizational Dynamics Lecture Series, as part of the master’s program in the School of Arts and Sciences.  I gave a talk on “The Emerging Science of Service Systems”, based on the research that I’ve been doing since I first saw Jim Spohrer speak at the ISSS 2005 meeting in Cancun.

I had previously posted the slides for the talk on the Coevolving Innovation Commons Publications archive.  An outline for the talk is as follows:

  • A. Introduction
  • B. The “new service economy” and SSMED
  • C. The systems in service systems
  • D. Artifacts / feeds to follow

The presentation is now available as a web video on the University of Pennsylvania media site for the School of Arts and Sciences.

I’m one, but not the only, researcher looking into Service Science, Engineering, Management and Design from the foundations of a systems approach.  A group from the ISSS has been having conversations on the emerging science. Following the question-and-answer period after the formal talk, some students stayed on to ask questions about systems in more depth.  The University of Pennsylvania, with a long tradition of systems thinking, continues to attract students with that interest!

The Organizational Dynamics program is now the home of the Russell Lincoln Ackoff Systems Thinking Library. … Read more (in a new tab)

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