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:
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:
The question of doing or not-doing has been deep in the intellectual traditions of American management thinking in the latter 20th century. The attitude of Bias for Action espoused by Tom Peters first published in 1982 exhorts managers to do. Peters describes the shifts of 1962 “Bias of planning”, to 1982 “Bias for action” in a report card from 2001, and observes in a 2018 interview that it’s become the first of eight commandments in Silicon Valley.
One way of framing doing and not-doing is around decision-making mistakes. In 1994, Ackoff was advocating strongly for organizational learning. He criticized executives who suppress the surfacing of prior errors that might preclude the recurrence of mistakes.
daviding February 28th, 2019
Concerns in the larger research body of research on platforms often leads to a subset looking into the impacts of the platform economy. Let’s try some more digests responding to questions.
The rise of the platform economy may be described either by the metaphor of “We Don’t Know Who Discovered Water, But We Know It Wasn’t a Fish” or the fable of the “Boiling Frog“.
daviding November 12th, 2018
The term “platform” is now popular in a variety of contexts. What do “platforms” mean, and what research might guide our appreciation?
Let’s outline some questions:
The articles cited below are not exhaustive, but they may give a sense of the ballpark.
The industrial age was typified by descriptions of “supply chains” and “value chains”, which otherwise may be called “pipelines”. Marshall Van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker, and Sangeet Paul Choudary write:
… platforms differ from the conventional “pipeline” businesses that have dominated industry for decades. Pipeline businesses create value by controlling a linear series of activities — the classic value-chain model. Inputs at one end of the chain (say, materials from suppliers) undergo a series of steps that transform them into an output that’s worth more: the finished product. [….]
daviding November 7th, 2018
West Churchman (1913-2004) was a Ph.D. supervisor to some luminaries in the systems sciences, including Russell L. Ackoff, Ian Mitroff, Harold G. Nelson and Werner Ulrich. Churchman’s 1979 book, The Systems Approach and Its Enemies, is unfortunately out of print, and is only readable on the web if you already have the text to search on. Here, some excerpts will be surfaced that may encourage readers to seek a copy in a local library.
[….] This book is just another step in the search for the meaning of generality, in this case a general design of social systems.
There are lots of themes that can be used to describe this search. Perhaps the best one is the discovery that the usual dichotomy of x or not x never seems to display the general, because neither of the above is always so prominent an aspect of the general social system. Thus there is an immense part of social systems reality that is none of the following popular dichotomies in the current literature: rational-irrational, objective-subjective, hierarchical-nonhierarchical, teleological-ateleological, deductive-nondeductive reasoning (for example, inductive or dialectical), ineffable-effable.
daviding June 23rd, 2018
Posted In: systems
Recordings of the book launch proceedings are now available as a web video playlist, and downloadable files.
Open Innovation Learning: Theory building on open sourcing while private sourcing was first released as a perfect bound softcopy and an open access PDF in November 2017. In February 2018, the ePub and Mobi editions were put online.
On February 21, a special session of Systems Thinking Ontario invited friends and colleagues to celebrate the publication that had taken most of the past three years in full-time research and writing. The recordings are available in 4 parts:
With family, friends and colleagues attending, this was one of the most memorable evenings of my life.
As the official host of Systems Thinking Ontario at OCADU University, Peter Jones served as the master of ceremonies.
The files are also available for download onto a mobile device.
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Peter explained the Nordic tradition of presenting dissertation research in a venue open to the public. While this gathering was not so formal, my participation with Systems Thinking Ontario and OCAD University made this assembly a natural session.
daviding June 2nd, 2018
Learning only a single systems method is reductive. A course that exposes breadth in a variety of systems methods encourages students to reflect on their circumstances-at-hand, and their explicit and implicit influences on guiding others in projects espousing systems thinking. This was a premise behind the structuring of “Systems Thinking, Systems Design“, an Information Workshop (i.e. 6-week elective quarter course) offered to master’s students at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information (iSchool).
The first class day had a short course introduction focused on the history of the systems sciences, and a minimal orientation to the most basic concept in systems theory. Then, for the four class days that followed, student groups led 8 presentation-facilitations on a research reference cluster (with the instructor on standby as a subject matter expert on the content). The topics included:
After each of the four days, students wrote Personal Appreciation Diary Logs (blog posts), mostly on the open web. These provided feedback to the instructor for commentary (and some remediation) at the beginning of the subsequent class meeting. We could review common understandings, difficulties and misconceptions about systems methods.
For the last (sixth) class meeting, each student group was asked to “prepare and present an infographic poster on their impressions about the system approaches most relevant to their research”. The conclusions reflected different interests, experiences and orientations amongst the iSchool students.
Group 1 (Megan Ferguson and Anna Lutsky) focused on a question most relevant to their immediate career direction: “How can librarians use systems thinking and modeling to plan for the future, enhance library services and better assist patrons?” They emphasized Soft Systems Methodology, Service Systems, and Dialogue Mapping.
Group 2 (Nadine Finlay and Hadley Staite) selected “Developing Systems Thinking” with “The new problem solving methods”. They liked Object Process Methodology, Idealized Design, Dialogue Mapping, and Service Systems.
daviding May 21st, 2018
Posted In: systems