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Beating the System: Using Creativity to Outsmart Bureaucracies Paperback – April 10, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If writing a book "for anyone who wants to take action and turn the tables on the many systems that abuse and frustrate them" seems a little vague, the authors, both emeritus professors at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, include a description of what a system is and detailed definitions of creativity. Woven throughout the book are anecdotes of various bureaucracies being subverted by savvy individuals, ranging from a traveler who falsely claimed to know the president of an airline in order to get on an overbooked flight to a group of friends in a restaurant who offered to buy wine for the people at a neighboring table in order to get them to stop smoking. Although aimed at those in the business world, the stories are compelling enough to interest anyone who's ever felt inconvenienced or frustrated by over-bureaucratized situations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Beating the system is a profession of necessity for most professionals. Best to learn the tips from a master. -- Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and Founding Chair, Society for Organizational Learning

I loved the book and recommended it to virtually every sentient person I know who works in an organized setting. -- Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Management at USC and author of On Becoming a Leader and Geeks and Geezers

The stories are real and captivating, the analysis is excellent, and the solutions are powerful and actionable. -- Chris Argyris, James Bryant Conant Professor of Education and Organizational Behavior, Harvard Business School

…for those of us who sometimes let ourselves get pushed around by systems, this book helps us stop being wimps! -- Michael Maccoby, author of The Productive Narcissist: the Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership

…gives insights and valuable advice on how to stay in control of your life despite complex and often broken systems. -- Ray Stata, Chairman of the Board, Analog Devices
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (April 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576753301
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576753309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #949,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Russel L. Acckoff is "the brain" in systems approach.
Prof. Dr. Moacyr E. A. da Graça
This east-to read, efficient little book gives many tips and fun examples of counter-moves against unhelpful organizational rules.
MAM
This is a book to be read in one sitting -- two hours max.
Denis Benchimol Minev

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Prof. Dr. Moacyr E. A. da Graça on July 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Russel L. Acckoff is "the brain" in systems approach.
Systems Approach is not only a discipline to be understanded, but a way of think that need to be exercised. It is a hard job to incorporate Systems Thinking as a way to see the world and guide your decisions. It is easy to understand the new but let the old behind is a quest. The authors of this book show how you can "beat systems" introducing a very simple method that can be used by any person. You will understand systems, learn how to find its weak spots and act, in spite of your size compared to the size of the big systems.David and Goliath inspired the authors. If you don't understand why some obvious things happens in certain organizational systems, like queues for all, idiot process, repetitive services, excess of papers and the bureaucracy that is in all places, this book was written for you.The authors present the subject in a very nice way and they use a lot of personal examples to show how creativity can be a powerful weapon against these strong systems and you can believe that this is true. I had many opportunities in my life to check and test heavy systems and I discover the same thing that the authors. This book puts order on the subject, explores the examples giving practical advices and life lessons. It is not an academic book in systems theory but the result of experience of lifes dedicated to disseminate, develop and use Systems Thinking as a way of changing the world. Read this book and something will change in your life and in your behavior and you will see the world with another eyes. UPGRADE YOUR MIND.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Johns Hopkins on March 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Look what the educational system does to creativity. Every child learns at a very early stage that when they're asked a question in school they must first ask themselves a question: What answer does the asker expect? That's the way you get through school, by providing people with the answers they expect. Now, one thing about an answer that somebody else expects is it can't be creative because it's already known. What we ought to be trying to do with children is get them to give us answers that we don't expect-to stimulate creativity. We kill it in school."

-Ackoff, The Deming Library, Vol. 21

Russell Ackoff, an expert in the field of operations research and systems thinking whose famous quote about the educational system is shown above, and Sheldon Rovin, a leading figure in healthcare management, here share their thoughts on the importance of defeating bureaucracies in today's society. They present their case by listing off examples of common bureaucratic inefficiencies being either side-stepped or called to attention by "system beaters." These system beaters, whom Ackoff and Rovin claim are ordinary, frustrated members of society, all display fundamental creative behaviors: the ability to deny an underlying assumption, to explore that denial, to defer judgment in that exploration, etc. This book will doubtfully transform the reader into an everyday system beater; it certainly did not do so for me. It does, however, provide the reader with a deep set of examples on creative behavior and may set them on the right path when it comes to thinking outside the box and generating more meaningful solutions when dealing with their own problems.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an amusing, entertaining and relevant book. At some point, senseless rules, mindless bureaucracies, or poor service and communication frustrate everyone. Authors Russell L. Ackoff and Sheldon Rovin offer a series of straightforward suggestions for getting the respect you deserve and fighting back against maddening treatment. They illustrate their principles with brief, accessible stories and, in at least one instance, even recommend lying to get your way. You can read this book quickly and immediately pull out tips you can use. However, you might want to consider the ramifications before, for instance, refusing to leave an airline clerk's desk or flooding an organization's voice mail. There may be lines you don't want to cross. Everyone has frustrating moments when they might want to apply these techniques, so it would help if the authors did more to sort the moments of justifiable frustration from the unjustified, or to help readers figure out when a rule is bad or a system needs changing. They seem to assume that if you are frustrated, you should retaliate quickly. As a result, the book seems a touch adolescent at times, despite the authors' impressive credentials. Everyone could enjoy this book, but we recommend it primarily to readers with a sense of perspective who can tell when to use these tactics - and when to just move along.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Diego Banducci on January 24, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book because I was interested in how a consultant should go about reforming a bureaucratic organization (i.e., from the inside). What the book discusses, however, is dealing with bureacratic organizations from the outside (e.g., as a frustrated consumer). So if you want to know how to deal with rude airline personnel or college administrators, you'll find the book useful. On the other hand, if you're trying to reform a bureaucratic organization from the inside, it will be of little use.

As is pointed out in another review, many of the examples are either limited on their facts or sophomoric. You will save yourself some trouble by reading Chapter 10 (which summarizes the authors' findings) first and than scanning the examples.
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