What's the best way to drive fundamental, transformative change within your organization? Envision your ideal solution: then, work backwards to where you are. It's called idealized design, and -- as executives in hundreds of organizations will testify -- it's one of the most powerful techniques you'll ever use. Authored by its legendary creator, Wharton Professor Emeritus Russell Ackoff, and leading practitioner Jason Magidson, Idealized Design covers every facet of this breakthrough methodology. You'll learn the fundamental differences between idealized design and traditional process re-engineering, and understand how idealized design eliminates many conventional obstacles to change. Start-to-finish techniques and examples drawn from hundreds of companies, non-profits, and government organizations will show you how to use idealized design to solve your own crisis of tomorrow...today.
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Russell L. Ackoff is Anheuser-Busch Professor Emeritus of Management Science, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He was a member and former Chairman of The Wharton School’s Social Systems Sciences Department, as well as the Busch Center, which specializes in systems planning, research, and design.
Dr. Ackoff is author and co-author of 22 books, including Redesigning the Future, The Art of Problem Solving, Creating the Corporate Future, Revitalizing Western Economies, Management in Small Doses, Ackoff’s Fables, The Democratic Corporation, and his most recent books Re-Creating the Corporation, Ackoff’s Best, Redesigning Society, and Beating the System, the latter two with Sheldon Rovin. His work in research, consulting, and education has involved more than 350 corporations and 75 government agencies in the United States and abroad.
Dr. Ackoff played a key role at the University of Pennsylvania, both in the early history of the Operations Research Group and in establishing the Social Systems Sciences Graduate Group. Since becoming Emeritus, he has been honored by the establishment of the Russell L. Ackoff Endowment in the Wharton School and The Ackoff Center for the Advancement of Systems Approaches in the Engineering School, through which his legacy at the University of Pennsylvania continues.
Jason Magidson is director of innovation processes at GlaxoSmithKline. He has 20 years’ experience helping organizations create an environment where great product and service ideas are generated. His clients have ranged from IKEA and DuPont to startups and non-profits. Magidson founded ProductWish.com,
a Web-based clearinghouse for innovative product improvement ideas. He has written for publications including Harvard Business Review.
Herbert J. Addison is a consulting editor and writer who has served as vice president and executive editor in business and economics for the Oxford University Press, and director of its college textbook department.
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No idea has had as much effect on the professional and personal lives of the first two authors of this book as idealized design. It has influenced everything we do in our professional lives—for one of us, as a former professor now emeritus, and the other, head of a staff unit at GlaxoSmithKline. In every case described in this volume, one or the other of us, or both, were directly involved.
What is idealized design? The answer is in the Introduction, in which we explain not only what idealized design is but also describe its extraordinary origin as a powerful tool of management.
The cases presented here constitute only a small sample of the cases on which we have had the opportunity to employ idealized design. We have tried to select as diverse a group of applications as possible to reveal how broad is the applicability of the process. We have never been confronted with a problem or opportunity to which idealized design has not been applicable.
In a sense, idealized design has been much more than a way of doing our work; it has been a way of life. There is little either one of us is called in to do that is not affected by the use of idealized design. There is no limit to its relevance where problems or opportunities are involved.
Idealized design has been described in a number of books but never in as much detail or with as many illustrations as we provide here. Unfortunately, words cannot convey the power of the procedure nearly as well as experiencing it. We hope that the vicarious experiences we provide here will entice the readers to explore the process on their own.
Involvement in the process is a liberating experience. Moreover, it is fun. It provides an opportunity to reactivate the creativity we had as children but lost on the "way up." It is a "soft idea" that lends itself to fashioning to suit specific situations. It is not a process cast in concrete. It involves at least as much art as science.
About the Authors and the "Authors' Voice"
This book has three authors who have contributed differently to it. Russell L. Ackoff is the central figure in the development of idealized design. Not only did he initially grasp the potential of the process to revolutionize how organizations can change today to better shape the future, but he has also been the leading thinker in developing the way the process is implemented in the real world of organizations that we describe in this book.
Jason Magidson was a long-time student and colleague of Ackoff's and participated in many idealized designs before he joined a major pharmaceutical firm. In his present position, he continues to use the process in a variety of applications. He has contributed examples of idealized design to the book, as well as helped to shape the advice we provide to managers about how to begin and implement the process.
Herbert J. Addison has spent his career in book publishing, with the past two decades devoted mainly to publishing books in business and management for practicing managers, business academics, and business students. His contribution is confined to helping to shape the final book for its intended readership of practicing managers.
Inevitably, when a book has more than one author, there will be a blurring of what is often called the "author's voice." The book you hold in your hands does not reflect the distinct voice of any one of its three authors—least of all the voice of Russell L. Ackoff. Thus it can be said to have an "authors' voice" that is a blend of the three. But there is one exception. In Chapter 1, "The Stages of Idealized Design," Ackoff steps forward and describes in his own distinctive voice how he first experienced idealized design—including mistakes he made and the amazing outcome of the experience. His co-authors recommend that you read one or more of Ackoff's books listed in the Annotated Bibliography for a full experience of the authentic Ackoff voice.
Russell L. Ackoff
Herbert J. Addison
January 3, 2006
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