25 Splendid Russell L. Ackoff Quotes

Russell L. Ackoff was an American organizational theorist and consultant having pioneered the field of operations research, systems thinking, and management science. During his life Ackoff consulted in more than 250 corporations and 50 governmental agencies in the US and abroad. Here is a look at some of the most notable Russel L. Ackoff quotes ever documented.

“A problem never exists in isolation; it is surrounded by other problems in space and time. The more of the context of a problem that a scientist can comprehend, the greater are his chances of finding a truly adequate solution.”

“Art inspires, produces an unwillingness to settle for what we have and a desire for something better. It is the product and producer of creative activity, change; it is essential for continuous development.”

“Creativity is the ability to identify self-imposed constraints, remove them, and explore the consequences of their removal.”

“Errors of omission, lost opportunities, are generally more critical than errors of commission. Organizations fail or decline more frequently because of what they did not do than because of what they did.”

“Every problem interacts with other problems and is therefore part of a set of interrelated problems, a system of problems…. I choose to call such a system a mess.”

“In systems thinking, increases in understanding are believed to be obtainable by expanding the systems to be understood, not by reducing them to their elements.”

“It is far better to do the right thing wrong than to do the wrong thing right.”

“It is the satisfaction we derive from ‘going there’ in contrast to the satisfaction derived from ‘getting there.’ Recreation provides ‘the pause that refreshes.’ It recreates creators.”

“Managers are not confronted with problems that are independent of each other, but with dynamic situations that consist of complex systems of changing problems that interact with each other.”

“Managers do not solve problems, they manage messes.”

“Managers who don’t know how to measure what they want settle for wanting what they can measure.”

“Most managers receive much more data (if not information) than they can possibly absorb even if they spend all of their time trying to do so. Hence they already suffer from an information overload.”

“No problem stays solved in a dynamic environment.”

“Nothing is harder to topple than a fact that supports a deeply held prejudice denied by its holder.”

“So much time is currently spent in worrying about the future that the present is allowed to go to hell.”

“Successful problem solving requires finding the right solution to the right problem. We fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to the right problem.”

“The future is better dealt with using assumptions than forecasts.”

“The lower the rank of managers, the more they know about fewer things. The higher the rank of managers, the less they know about many things.”

“The more efficient you are at doing the wrong thing, the wronger you become. It is much better to do the right thing wronger than the wrong thing righter. If you do the right thing wrong and correct it, you get better.”

“The objective of education is learning, not teaching.”

“To manage a system effectively, you might focus on the interactions of the parts rather than their behavior taken separately.”

“Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught.”

“Understanding proceeds from the whole to its parts, not from the parts to the whole as knowledge does.”

“Unless people can express themselves well in ordinary English, they don’t know what they are talking about.”

“We can only learn from mistakes, by identifying them, determining their source, and correcting them… people learn more from their own mistakes than from the successes of others.”

Here is a look at Russ Ackoff as he presents the difference between continuous and discontinuous improvement as it relates to systems thinking.

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