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Ackoff's Best: His Classic Writings on Management 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471316343
ISBN-10: 0471316342
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Russ Ackoff uses words that cut through the familiar and open doors in one's brain."-Arie de Geus, author of The Living Company

From the Inside Flap

Ackoff's Best Russell Ackoff is a very special management thinker. As an architect, city planner, doctor of philosophy, behavioral scientist, trailblazer in the fields of organizational, operations, and systems theory, bestselling author, distinguished Wharton School professor, and head of his own management education and consulting firm, he qualifies, as do few others in this century, for the title of "Renaissance Man." Fortunately, he makes up for this grievous shortcoming by also being an outrageously funny observer of homo commercium. Now, Ackoff's Best offers you an opportunity to become acquainted with this irreverent genius who, over the past forty years, has clone so much to shape our understanding of the modern business organization. Compiled by the author, Ackoff's Best encapsulates the author's most controversial, influential, and wittiest work to appear since the 1970s. Ackoff's groundbreaking exploration of systems theory and its effect on business provides the backbone of this collection. Also included are his most lasting and thought-provoking writings on an array of topics in business, society, and human behavior that well reflect the sweeping scope of Ackoff's intellect and expertise. From managing teams, maximizing the effectiveness of information systems, and problem solving, to creativity, crime, and the role of the corporation in a democratic society, these writings are a cornucopia of insights, observations, and powerful lessons that will help you maximize your personal development and the effectiveness of your organization. An excellent introduction for newcomers to Russell Ackoff, and a welcome compendium of Ackoff's pithiest writings for those already familiar with his ideas from such classic works as Creating the Corporate Future and The Art of Problem Solving, Ackoff's Best is required reading for every intelligent businessperson.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 16, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471316342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471316343
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A fascinating collection of writings, compiled by the author, which explores, first and foremost, systems thinking and its effects upon business and management. But beyond this, these writings delve into an astounding array of subjects including: the nature of planning; problem solving; managing; mission statements; creativity and constraints; consumer design; education; crime; advertising; design of management systems; the nature of science and methodology; objectivity; rationality; the future of operations research; and the role of business in a democratic society. This book is nothing less than a journey into the many-faceted mind of a great thinker. For those with a high level of curiosity about systems, organization, business, the human mind, and society, this collection is a gold mine, reflecting the richness of thought of this exceptional person. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This book collects provocative, insightful essays by Russell L. Ackoff, architect turned city planner turned behavioral scientist turned professor. True to his convictions about systems thinking, his pieces form a coherent whole. Like a successful system, the whole of this book is greater than the sum of its parts. And what parts: the roots of systems thinking; a properly irreverent approach to bureaucracy; the role of planning; a standard for mission statements; effective advertising advice. Ackoff is a voice in the wilderness as he fondly remembers his bureaucracy-bucking, folly-filled, smart-as-heck past. Although this book tends to veer toward the academic, managers and students of management will find it useful. We [...] recommend it to anyone seeking insight on creativity, education, and science. Tear into this book a little at a time; you won't be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
The only book by Ackoff that I would recommend more highly is Re-creating the Corporation. These two books summarize much of his thought and philosophy of business design. If you are looking for a better understanding on systems thinking and its implications for organization design and peformance, and did not find it in Senge's The Fifth Discipline, then here is a great place to go. Put on your thinking cap and delve into Ackoff's Best.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over the years, I was disinclined to read anything by Russell Ackoff largely because of my reservations regarding the notion of "management science". Then, I encountered and read his seminal if less known book On Purposeful Systems, and my high regard for it induced me to read Ackoff's Best. This latter book engagingly surveys a wide range of topics on a cogent, incisive, novel as well as readable basis. Despite the variety of topics offered, the chapters exhibit a surprising degree of continuity through the recurring invocation of his explicit terminology and underlying ideas/concepts.

Basically, I believe that Ackoff's original and provocative ideas are considerably enriched by his: training as a philosopher, pioneering role in systems thinking, and engaged/reflective consultation experience. Part I of Ackoff's Best introduces his systems thinking in a clear and substantive form. This includes background, rationale, and terminology for a systems mindset, and proceeds into penetrating if straightforward insights and concepts of general value in dealing with problematic real-world situations. Also, he describes a purposeful system as one that "selects means as well as ends", along with an important instance thereof called an ideal-seeking system. It can pursue an idealized goal by progressively approaching it more closely through a sequence of ever more refined sub-goals. In all, these ideas/concepts are not applicable merely in the management arena, but also to the engineering of physical systems.

Part II introduces Ackoff's distinction between the glib notion of "solving problems" and the practical necessity of "managing messes". He characterizes messes as systems of interrelated problems that are not amenable to ease of definition much less isolation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a collection of chapters, reports, and articles that Russell Ackoff wrote over a span of decades. However, they come together to form a coherent whole seamlessly.

He did write brief introductions to the four sections: Systems, Planning, Applications, and Science. The only editing was to remove what would otherwise be redundant explanations. The book also provides guidance to continue research after each chapter. So if one chapter seems particularly interesting you get find the book or other relevant sources.

Ackoff's writing is witty and at times mischievous, but always easily readable. This is an added benefit, considering:
A) that so few management books are anything close to enjoyable reading, and
B) his topics are unusually complex.

His explanation of systems is masterful, and his use of many clarifying definitions illuminates what could otherwise be a difficult subject. His examples shine, ranging from how people respond to bureaucracies, to why people drink alcohol, to how education frequently stifles creativity, and to the effects of advertising on sales.

The one weakness would be the chapter on crime, which was written in 1974, and has been completely reversed by the policies that lead to New York's dramatic reductions in crime in the 90s.

That said, Ackoff still has an enviable track record of success considering that his pioneering research blazed trails in so many areas.
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