IDEALIZED DESIGN. Creating an Organization’s Future. Russell L. Ackoff. Jason Magidson. Herbert J. Addison. Prentice Hall. In this chapter, we look at the stages in idealized design because success .. of the GM Strategic Initiatives group, who worked with Ackoff on problems at GM. by Herbert J. Addison, Jason Magidson, Russell L. Ackoff Russell Ackoff, and leading practitioner Jason Magidson, Idealized Design covers every facet of this .
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In their book, Idealized Design: Ackoff, Jason Magidson and Herbert J. Addison build upon a simple notion. Idealized design is a way of thinking about change that is deceptively simple to state: In solving problems of virtually any kind, the way to get the best outcome is to imagine what the ideal solution would be and then work backward to where you are today.
This ensures that you do not erect imaginary obstacles before you even know what the ideal is. Nothing better illustrates the power of this idea in action than the experience that one of the authors, Russell L. Ackoff, had many years ago. The experience both enlightened him and proved to him that the idea could facilitate profound change in a major corporation.
Idealized Design — To solve a problem, start with the ideal solution
In every life, there are seminal experiences that exert their influence on a great deal of experience that follows. The one that is responsible for this book took place in It had not yet merged with Western Reserve University. It so happened that on the day of my visit he and axkoff managers had been summoned to an important — but last-minute — conference by desig vice president of Bell Labs. He said that no one would know the difference.
We arrived at a typical classroom that held about forty people and was almost full. The vice president was not there yet. Nor did he appear on time.
This was very unusual. He was a big man, extroverted, and voluble. He could not get near someone without punching, pinching, pushing, hugging, or pounding them on the back. About ten minutes after the hour, the door to the room squeaked open. All eyes turned to it, and there he was. He was obviously very upset.
Idealized Design — To solve a problem, start with the ideal solution
He was a pasty gray and bent over as he slowly shuffled down the aisle without a word to anyone. He mounted the platform, stood behind the podium, put his elbows on it, and held his head in his two hands, looking down. The room was dead silent. The room broke out in a hubbub of whispered conversations saying that his statement was not true. Many in the room had used a phone that morning.
The vice president began to tremble with rage. He then looked down again. The vice president looked up and glowered at the group. Then he suddenly straightened up, his normal color seemed to return, and he broke out in a great big belly laugh. All those in the room also began to laugh. They did not know why they were laughing, but it released the tension that his unusual behavior had created.
It began to dawn on all of us that his behavior had been a trick. I agreed, but it got me thinking. What do you think are the most important contributions we have ever made to this development? Almost every hand in the room went up. He called on one of those with a raised hand. Do any of you know when we introduced the dial? The vice president agreed. He said he had not known either but had looked it up before he came to the meeting.
He pressed on, asking for another candidate. The next one offered was multiplexinga way of transmitting multiple conversations simultaneously over one wire. He once again asked when it has been introduced. Someone knew it had been between the two world wars.
Again he revealed that it was before He asked for one more suggestion. What have you been doing? As a result, we desigm been improving the parts, but not the whole. We have got to restart by focusing on desiging the whole and then designing parts that fit it rather than vice versa.
Therefore, gentlemen, we are going to begin by designing the system with which we would replace the existing system right now if we were free to replace it with whatever system we wanted, subject to only two not-very-restrictive constraints. Because we know that where we say today we would like to be five years from now is not where we will want to be when we get there.
Things will happen between now and then that will affect our goals and objectives. By focusing on what ideaoized want right now, we can eliminate that potential source of error.
If we knew what we would do with virtually no constraints, we could modify it, if necessary, to become feasible and adapt it to changing internal and external conditions as time goes on. This means we cannot use any but currently available knowledge. What does that mean?
Idealized Design: Creating an Organization’s Future [Book]
Because we are not changing the environment, it means that the system must be able to function and survive in the current environment. For example, idfalized will have to obey current laws and regulations. Therefore, I am going to divide you into six subgroups of about six each, each with responsibility for a subsystem. Each group will select a representative to meet with other representatives at least once a week to discuss interactions.
When the meeting was adjourned, the teams immediately gathered so that their members got to know each other. As a result, I spent a great deal of time in the next aackoff with that team.
What a learning experience it was! The first meeting took place after lunch that day. The seven of us, six from the labs and I, met in a small breakout room. After the diealized, we discussed where we should begin. We decided to list idealizdd properties we wanted a telephone to have.
We noted suggestions on a idexlized mounted on an easel. The first few were as follows:. We continued to add to this list for several weeks, ending with just more than ninety properties we wanted a phone to have. These properties became very complicated near the end. Iidealized example, we wanted to be able to talk simultaneously to groups in multiple locations, see all of them, and be able to transmit documents or charts instantaneously. But we ran dry. We noted, however, that we had designed nothing yet, so decided to try our hands at it.
We decided to select the first property on our list — no wrong numbers — and see if we could design a phone that met this requirement. At cesign point, I almost destroyed my credibility in the group by pointing out that there were two kinds of wrong numbers. Fortunately, the group decided this was too rare to be of concern but that the percentage of wrong numbers of each type was of concern.
Here I was able to save credibility a bit because I knew the head of the psychology department at the labs.
I called him using the phone in the room. After the amendities, I asked him if he had ever done any work ideallzed wrong numbers. He exploded at the end of the line.
It was minutes before I could understand him. It turned out that he had been doing work on wrong numbers for a number of years, and I was the first one to ask him about it. He wanted to unload all of his results dewign me. I had to convince him otherwise. We decided to go to work on this. An amazing thing happened; in less than an hour, we found a way, conceptually, to reduce, if not eliminate, such errors.
We replaced the dial by — what did not exist at that time — a small handheld calculator. There were ten keys, one for each digit, a register, and a red key in the lower-right corner. The phone was to be used as follows. These numbers would appear on the register. If these numbers, on examination, appear to be correct, one would lift the receiver and the whole number would go through at once.
If the number on the register was wrong, one would press the red button in the corner. This would clear the phone, and one would start over. We were very pleased with ourselves, but nevertheless we recognized that we did not know whether such a phone was technologically feasible.
The handheld calculator was not yet available.
Therefore, we called a department of the lab that worked on miniaturization and asked for technical help.