When I wrote about Russ Ackoff as one of my lesser known heroes of improvement I contrasted his relative obscurity with that of W Edwards Deming.

Interesting that the Top 10 searches leading people to this blog include Ackoff but not Deming.  In fact not one of all the many searches mentioned Deming.  Perhaps those interested in systems thinking – because that’s what they’re both about – already know what they need to about Deming but somehow, somewhere are having their interest in Ackoff stimulated and are looking to learn more about him.

Like all these Top 10 hits people searched for a number of related terms including, in this case, girlslink + ackoff; youtube + russell ackoff on health care; russell ackoff right thing; there’s no bigger waste than doing well that shouldn’t be done at all ackoff; and russell ackoff justice talk.

Some of those search terms look a bit off the wall (“girlslink”?) but a quick read of my earlier post on Ackoff will explain.  And they hint quite nicely at some of the big issues that concerned him (he died in 2009 aged 90).

The earlier post includes a YouTube video of an Ackoff interview which I think is just great in both content and style.  Search for him further on YouTube and you’ll find other talks by and about him.

If you haven’t heard much about Ackoff before here are just a few quotes from that interview.  All well worth thinking about in the context of public services.

Information knowledge and understanding are all concerned with improving efficiency…wisdom is concerned with effectiveness

Doing the right thing is wisdom, effectiveness.  Doing things right is efficiency

The righter you do the wrong thing the wronger you become

It’s better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right

Almost every major social problem confronting us today is a consequence of trying to do the wrong things righter

We never learn by doing something right…you only learn from mistakes

There are two kinds of mistakes…[errors of commission and errors of omission]  Errors of omission are much more important than errors of commission

Now you’re in an organisation that says making a mistake is a bad thing…if you’re a manager [somewhere like that] you minimise the chance of doing something you shouldn’t have done by doing nothing.

I mentioned Deming above.  I have huge admiration for both him and Ackoff.  But Ackoff addresses wider social issues than Deming and for that I especially value him.