Systems thinking -- Inquiry across philosophy, science, arts, and humanities [Russ Ackoff, ISSS 1998 Plenary Session, July 20/98]

[Plenary Session, July 20/98, 11:05 a.m.]

Recently heard a parable about system thinkers:

System: [defined] [better to read Ackoff's books, because he went over them so quickly!] Analysis: when taken apart, loses essential properties ... Analysis yields something, but not understanding.

People from Britain drive on the wrong side of the road.

Five types of content in the human mind: Need to use synthetic thinking.
  1. ... as a part of a larger system ...
  2. Explain the behaviour of the larger containing system.
  3. Disaggregate the whole ...
Analysis yields structure, synthesis yields understanding through function.

There are no disciplinary problems.

All different aspects of the same reality.

Headaches not solved by brain surgery: put a pill in the stomach, instead.

Marketing executive who sees a problem tried to manipulate his variables, which is rarely effective.

C.P. Snow: The two cultures:

They are two aspects of the same thing, like two sides of a coin. Life itself: losing the aspects of the whole: Market researchers ask too many questions, only need one. Surveys at universities at the top show satisfaction. As system scientists, have an obligation towards this.

Need a multiversity, not a university.

When was the last time you taught a course which was offered when you were a student?


How should utility (value) be defined in the context of the individual in the new world? How do we know what is the right thing to be done?

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