114Memories of Russ Ackoff
- Oct 26, 2010
Memories of Russ Ackoff - a collection of stories from his life and work
"The past is normally treated as a continuous flow of events embedded in time. But we remember it as a series of discrete happenings and even then not necessarily in the order in which they occurred. This memoir consists of a set of discrete bits and pieces... they stand out in my memory and hopefully are something that readers might find useful and, if not useful, entertaining."
Russell Ackoff, from his Preface to Memories
"Useful" and "entertaining" are the very mildest of understatements when talking of Russ Ackoff and his life's work. His career as a pioneering management educator brought first Operations Research then Systems Thinking and then Design Thinking not only to the study of business, but to countless corporations, organizations and governments, including Anheuser Busch (the makers of Budweiser) and the Iranian government. His writing is a refreshing mixture of razor-sharp clarity of thought and wry, sardonic, and often mischievious, wit.
I met Russ, aged 87, when he came to the UK at the time of the launch of his 2007 book Management f-Laws. During those two days of press interviews, conference events and socialising, his energy and intelligence commanded every conversation. When he died in November 2009, he left two unpublished manuscripts - both written in his inimitable voice. Memories is the first of these: a collection of short stories drawn from his life experience.
The "discrete bits and pieces" in Memories catalogue mistakes, errors, solutions and creative thinking amassed over the course of Russ's lifetime. For example, he tells of accidentally broadcasting - through a wireless microphone he'd forgotten was still on - to a learning group in the next room that they were "the worst class I had ever addressed; its members were inert". (...UK residents may be reminded of ex-PM Gordon Brown's similar gaff!...) Other anecdotes include the pioneering introduction of theme parks to the US and a (less successful) fireside chat with the Queen of Iran over her husband's leadership strategy.
Spanning a period of 50 years, Memories reflects the changing social and workplace attitudes of our recent past, but, more importantly, the insights that they offer point to ways of
re-thinking our present interactions and changing future relationships - both in work and outside it - for the better.
For anyone who knew Ackoff the man or his work, Memories is a joyful reminder of both.
Memories is available as a Hardcover Collector's Edition and in Paperback from the Triarchy Press website, published 21 October 2010. Click here for more information, or to place an order now.
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