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Brain of the Firm Paperback – June 8, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0471948391 ISBN-10: 047194839X Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 2 edition (June 8, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047194839X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471948391
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"Stafford Beer is undoubtedly among the world’s most provocative, creative, and profound thinkers on the subject of management, and he records his thinking with a flair that is unmatched. His writing is as much art as it is science. He is the most viable system I know." Dr Russell L Ackoff, The Institute for Interactive Management, Pennsylvania, USA. "If … anyone can make it [Operations Research] understandably readable and positively interesting it is Stafford Beer … everyone in management … should be grateful to him for using clear and at times elegant English and … even elegant diagrams." The Economist This is the second edition of a book which has already become a management ‘standard’ both in universities and on the bookshelves of managers and their advisers. Brain of the Firm develops an account of the firm based upon insights derived from the study of the human nervous system, and is a basic text from the author’s theory of viable systems. Despite the neurophysiology, the book is written for managers to understand. The companion volume to this book is The Heart of Enterprise, which is intended to support and complement this text. "Stafford Beer’s works represent required reading for everyone who believes that a capacity for rigorous thinking is an essential attribute of today’s successful managers and administrators. Brain of the Firm shows a first-rate intellect at work and provides concepts, models and inspiration for both practitioners and teachers." Sir Douglas Hague, CBE

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15 of 25 people found the following review helpful By William A. Smith on September 9, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first two-thirds of this book are worth the considerable effort needed to get through them. Beer lays out an intriguing model for the organization and control of the firm based on a combination of cybernetics and neurophysiology. It replays careful consideration for anyone trying to make some sense of the general mess that passes for organization and control at more firms.

There are some significant flaws. First, the assumption that all divisions or strategic business units are viable systems, in his terminology, does not square with financial theory. (If they were all truly viable systems and potentially indepedent, then the firm should divest all, because the combination would trade at a discount to the value of the pieces because they cannot be easily valued independently. Many would make the same argument about GE today.) Second, the system as described has a strong centralizing tendency, whereas many would think that decisions and responsibility need to be pushed to the edge. Third, the system as a whole is homeostatic by design, where the greatest failing that most firms have today is the inability to change with changing conditions. Beer does attempt to deal with these issues (except the first), but I do not find his arguments convincing.

But, generally, he had me until the final third, which deals with a project to use these ideas to create a control and management system for (as he says) the "social economy" of Chile under the Marxist Allende regime. At this point, a great deal of clarity goes out the window, and is replaced with a combination of Marxist posturing and cybernetic babble. And, as we all know, one of the many reasons for the collapse of the Allende regime was endemic mismanagement of an economy rapidly appropriated by the state.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1997
Format: Paperback
The last six chapters of the second edition are an historic document describing a cybernetic dream that brings back hope to mankind
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
Beer seems at times to have sopped too much of his namesake. Interesting enough from the historic sence much of what is presented here has roots in other works, including Bertalanffy, Powell and Mumford. Fortunately the work is more interesting than one of his lectures!
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