Bell Labs Designing a New Phone System Using Idealized Design

I remember hearing this same story when Russ Ackoff spoke at the Hunter Conference on Quality (which was named in honor of my father) in Madison, Wisconsin.

If you haven’t heard this story you are in for a treat. And if you haven’t heard Russell Ackoff before you get to enjoy a great storyteller.

"Tape" of Ackoff’s Bell Lab Lecture at the US Navy.

If you would limit yourself to paying attention to 5 thinkers to advance your understanding of managing organizations Ackoff should be one of them. Of course, many managers don’t even try to learn from 5 leading management thinkers to do their jobs better over their career. So for many people just learning from Ackoff, Deming, Scholtes etc. they would be far ahead of the path they are now for their career. Of course you are not limited to learning from 5 people so you can learn from more if you want to be a better manager and leader.

I probably remember a great deal from maybe 5 talks from the more than 5 years I attended the Hunter Conference (and they were the best conferences I have attended – this might explain why the last conference I attended was maybe 7 years ago). This was one of them. And I realized that Ackoff was someone I could learn a great deal from and it caused me to learn a great deal from Russ Ackoff over the next decade.

Watch the video for much more but the basic idea of idealized design is to create a new design for a product, service or the organization based on existing feasibility but without the constraints of the existing setup. Then you can use that ideal to figure out a plan to move from the existing state to that idealized design. Russell Ackoff co-authored a good book on the topic: Idealized Design.

Related: Ackoff, Idealized Design and Bell Labs (2006)Corporations Are Not Led By Those Seeking to Maximize Shareholder Value, Russ AckoffTransformation and Redesign at the White House Communications AgencyRussell L. Ackoff: 1919 -2009Dr. Russell Ackoff Webcast on Systems ThinkingDesigning a New Organization (2005)

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3 Responses to Bell Labs Designing a New Phone System Using Idealized Design

  1. sky fx says:

    Bonjour from France.
    Idealized product, is a process from Triz Ideality concept to design ideally by product users and engineering makers.

  2. danbracewell says:

    Thanks, John. This is a great video. He is a really good story teller. Thanks for sharing. Ackoff is definitely toward the top of my list as someone to study. It was suggested I start with “Ackoff’s Best: His Classic Writings on Management.” What do you think?

  3. John Hunter says:

    Ackoff’s Best is an excellent book. He has several that are excellent (Creating the Corporate Future is one, The Art of Problem Solving Accompanied by Ackoff’s Fables is another) and more that are very good.

    In my list of the best management books I couldn’t decide which of Ackoff’s books to chose

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