Thursday, November 5, 2009

Foster systems thinking

Modern education systems deserve much of the blame, both for fostering the belief that education ends when a person leaves school and for its emphasis on being right rather than on how to learn from mistakes. This has encouraged caution rather than risk-taking, with individuals preferring to avoid mistakes when possible and hide them if necessary. The world’s four greatest statisticians never took a course in statistics, Mr Ackoff would point out, and three of America’s greatest architects (Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright) never took a formal course in architecture.

Society urgently needs to find better ways of inculcating systems thinking in its decision-makers and public-policy experts in particular, he argued. It also needs to change how it accounts for mistakes. Currently, almost any accounting system you can think of records mistakes of commission, when a deliberate act goes wrong, but keeps no record of mistakes of omission: things not done that should have been. The result is a conservative, risk-averse culture that holds back the innovation that society needs.
Read the full article in The Economist here

Read more about the ideas of Russ Ackoff here and here

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