Why few organizations adopt systems thinking


The title of this blog posting is also the title of an article by Russell L. Ackoff, professor Emeritus at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

It is an irresistible title for anyone who is somewhat familiar with systems thinking and wonders why our larger society hasn’t embraced what seems like a very logical next step after the one dimensional cause-and-effect thinking.

Ackoff’s article has a section entitled “The Specific Reason“:

“Very few managers have any knowledge or understanding of systems thinking, and for good reason. Very little of our literature and lectures are addressed to potential users. I very seldom come across an organizational decision maker who has had any previous exposure to systems thinking.

We are an introverted profession. We do most of our writing and speaking to each other.

…Until we communicate to our potential users in a language they can understand, they and we will not understand what we are talking about. If Einstein could do it with relativity theory we should be able to do it with systems thinking..

“…This society should publish a journal addressed to potential users. It should have managers on its editorial board. It should invite dialog with potential users either electronically or in print. In addition it should occasionally hold conferences that provide a bridge between systems thinkers and their potential users. These conferences should reveal what are we doing and can do that they should know about?”

UPDATE: The entire article is available online via the Ackoff’ Center’s blog (see the March 7, 2007 blog posting)

Article Source:
Ackoff, Russell L. (2006). Why few organizations adopt systems thinking. Systems Research and Behavioral Science. 23, 705-708 (2006).

Related on the web:

The Ackoff laboratory >>

Proceedings from systems thinking conference 1999 >>

Systems related links from upenn >>

Systems Thinking Press (lots of links here) >>

The University of Hull (Business dept – Systems) >>
Daniel Montano
Keyword: Daniel Montano, Dan Montano, user experience design, information architect

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