Tag Archives: Education

Ackoff’s Best by Russell Ackoff

Summary

  1. System is more than just a concept. It is an intellectual way of life, a worldview, a concept of the nature of reality and how to investigate it – a weltanschauung 

Key Takeaways

  1. Systems
    1. A system is a set of two or more elements that satisfies the following 3 conditions: 1) the behavior of each element has an effect on the behavior of the whole, 2) the behavior of the elements and their effects on the whole are interdependent, 3) however subgroups of the elements are formed, each has an effect on the behavior of the whole and none an independent effect on it. A system, therefore, is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts..The essential properties of a system taken as a whole derive from the interactions of its parts, not their actions taken separately. Therefore, when a system is taken apart it loses its essential properties. Because of this – and this is the critical point – a system is a whole that cannot be understood by analysis. 
    2. If each part of a system, considered separately, is made to operate as efficiently as possible, the system as a whole will not operate as effectively as possible. For example, if we took the highest quality parts from various cars and put them all together into a new car, we would not even obtain an automobile because the parts would not fit together. Even if they did, they would not work well together. The performance of a system depends more on how its parts interact than on how they act independently of each other. Understanding proceeds from the whole to its parts, not from the parts to the whole as knowledge does. 
    3. We must always be concerned with 3 levels of purpose: the purposes of the system, of its parts, and of the system of which it is part, the suprasystem 
    4. Systems are either variety-increasing or variety-decreasing relative to the behavior of its parts. A prison is variety-decreasing whereas a library is variety-increasing. The most variety-decreasing type of social system is one we call a bureaucracy. A bureaucracy is an organization whose principal objective is to keep people busy doing nothing. They tend to mechanize procedures, thereby reducing choice 
    5. The best system designer is one who knows how to beat any system that others design. A smart sytem can use knowledge of how it can be beat to redesign itself to reduce or eliminate that kind of beating (use of countermeasure teams helps as well)
    6. No system is as smart as some of the people it serves
  2. Planning
    1. Reactive planning has two major deficiencies. First, it is based on the mistaken assumption that if one gets rid of what one does not want, one gets what one wants. This assumption can be seen as false by anyone who turns on a television set and gets a program he or she does not want. Preactive planners focus on increasing their ability to forecast changes that will occur. Interactive planners focus on increasing their ability to control or influence change or its effects, and to respond rapidly and effectively to changes they cannot control, thereby decreasing their need to forecast. Reactive planning is primarily  concerned with removal of threats; preactive planning is concerned with exploitation of opportunities. Interactive planning is concerned with both equally but it assumes that threats and opportunities are created when an organization does as well as by what is done to it. In planning, breadth is more important than depth, and interactions are more important than actions. Planning cannot be siloed or independent, all levels should be planned for simultaneously and interdpendently. When the principles of coordination and integration are combined the holistic principle is obtained: every part of an organization at every level should plan simultaneously and interdependently. The concept of all-over-at-once planning differs significantly from both reactive bottom-up and preactive top-down planning
    2. With tongue in cheek, we can say that successful long-term planning involves, among other things uncovering the inevitable, determining how to exploit it, and taking credit for having brought it about 
    3. One way to obtain control over the future is to reduce the variations one might expect in the behavior of essential parts of the system or its environment 
  3. Problems
    1. There are 4 ways of treating problems
      1. Absolve – ignore it and hope it will go away or solve itself
      2. Resolve – do something that yields an outcome that is good enough, that satisfies. Try to identify the cause of the problem, remove or suppress it, and thereby return to a previous state (clinical approach)
      3. Solve – do something that yields the best possible outcome, that optimizes. Rely heavily on experimentation and quantitative analysis (research)
      4. Dissolve – elimiante the problem by redesigning the system that has it. Idealize and approximate an ideal system and thereby do better in the future than the best that can be done now
  4. Education
    1. Educators make little or no effort to relate the bits and pieces of information they dispense. Subject matters are kept apart. A course in one subject seldom uses or even refers to the content of another…Such compartmentalization reinforces the concept that knowledge is made up of many unrelated parts. But it is only by grasping the relationship between these parts that information can be transformed into knowledge, knowledge into understanding, and understanding into wisdom…Emphasis on separateness of subjects was characteristic of the Machine Age. Emphasis on relationships and interactions is characteristic of the Systems Age. Machine Age education is disintegrating; that of the Systems Age should be integrating.
    2. Teachers cheat to stay in the system; students, to get out of it
    3. Formal education denies the effectiveness of learning processes that take place out of class or school. Most learning takes place without teaching, but schools are founded on teaching, not learning. Therefore, the Systems Age education should focus on the learning process, not the teaching process. In the Systems Age school children should be motivated to learn whatever they ought to learn but never forced to learn what they do not want to. When students want to learn something or the need for learning it becomes apparent to them, they will learn it
    4. Industrial Age education is variety-decreasing, but individuality should be preserved at all costs. Uniformity and conformity are anathema to progress
    5. It is artificial counterproductive to separate play, formal education, and work
    6. Systems Age education should be organized as a continuing, if not a continuous, process. 
    7. Systems Age education should be carried out by either educational systems that can and do learn and adapt. It should facilitate a student’s learning what he wants and needs to learn, enable him to learn more efficiently, and motivate him to want to learn, particularly those things he needs in order to satisfy his own desires and to be socially useful
    8. Some subjects are best learned by teaching them to oneself, some subjects are best learned by teaching them to others, some skills are best learned through demonstration and instruction by one who already has it
    9. Awareness of questions that have either not been asked or answered and synthesis of those answers that are available are best attained in seminar discussions guided by one steeped in the relevant area
    10. Many students are best motivated to learn and best learn how to do so in attempting to solve real problems under real conditions with the guidance of one who is already so motivated and who knows how to learn
    11. A major deficiency in formal education lies in its formality
    12. Small groups of 3-5 students can be organized into learning cells in which they teach each other different subjects or different parts of the same subject. 
    13. Closed-book examinations – the type most frequently used – are poor tests of knowledge or understanding because they are not like real-life situations in which a person’s knowledge and understanding are tested and evaluated. They are primarily tests of memory. In real life, we are evaluated by how well we get jobs done. 
    14. I believe it is not nearly as important that a student learns any particular subject as it is that he learns how to learn and how to enjoy doing so. Subjects, disciplines, and even professions are convenient ways of labeling and filing knowledge. But the world is not organized in the same way as our knowledge of it is. There are no physical, chemical, biological, psychological, sociological, or other unidisciplinary problems. The disciplines and subjects are not different parts of the world; they are different ways of looking at the world. Hence, any problem can be looked at form the point of view from any discipline. For example, a doctor may see an elderly woman’s lack of good health as a consequence of her weak heart; an architect may see it as deriving from her having to walk up 3 flights of stairs to her inadequate apartment; an economist may see it as due to her lack of income; and a sociologist as a consequence of her family’s indifference. Progress comes from creative reorganization of what we already know as from discovery of new things.  Therefore, we should not imbed our current wants of knowledge in students’ minds as fixed categories. They should be encouraged to oranize their learning in ways that best serve them, not us. Because what one learns is not nearly as important as learning how to leanr, and because questions are at least as important as answers, students should be free to design their own curricula
    15. An ounce of information is worth a pound of data. An ounce of knowledge is worth a pound of information. An ounce of understanding is worth a pound of knowledge
    16. Information is contained in descriptions, answers to questions that begin with such words as who, what, when, where, and how many. Knowledge is conveyed by instructions, answers to how-to questions. Understanding is conveyed by explanations, answers to why questions
    17. Effectiveness is evaluated efficiency. It is efficiency multiplied by value, efficiency for a valued outcome. Intelligence is the ability to increase efficiency; wisdom is the ability to increase effectiveness 
    18. There are as many realities as there are minds contemplating them. Learning how to determine what points of view will produce the best treatment should be, but seldom is, an essential part of education
    19. Academic departments and curricula do not organize knowledge; they organize teachers and disorganize knowledge. It is important for students to realize that the best place to deal with a problem is not necessarily where the problem appears. For example, we don’t try to treat headaches with brain surgery, but by swallowing a pill 
    20. What’s wrong with teaching? Four things are wrong with teaching. 1) More concerned with transmitting than receiving (although talking to others is a good way to find out what we think, it is often a very poor way of learning what they think). 2) it assumes ignorance on the part of the students. 3) it discourages, if not kills, creativity. 4) it normally uses tests and examinations to determine what students have learned, and they do not do so effectively. 
    21. The less we expect from others, the less we are likely to get from them 
  5. Science
    1. It is particularly important for managers to understand that correlation and regression analyses cannot establish causal relationships – only experiments can do that
    2. First, we shall consider science as a process of inquiry; that is, as a procedure for a) answering questions, b) solving problems, and c) developoing more effective procedures for answering questions and solving problems. Science is also frequently taken to be a body of knowledge. We shall concentrate, however, on the process which generates this knowledge rather than on the knowledge itself. 
    3. Scientific progress has been two dimensional. First, the range of questions and problems to which science has been applied has been continuously extended. Second, science has continuously increased the efficiency with which inquiry can be conducted. The products of scientific inquiry then are 1) a body of information and knowledge which enables us better to control the environment in which we live, and 2) a body of procedures which enables us better to add to this body of information and knoweldge. science both informs and instructs. The body of information generated by science and the knowledge of how to use it are two products of science
    4. The phases of research – observation, generalization, experimentation
    5. Research in 6 phases – formulating the problem, constructing the model, testing the model, deriving a solution from the model, testing and controlling the solution, implementing the solution 
  6. Other
    1. As the rate of change increases, the complexity of the problems that face us also increases. 
    2. Analysis focuses on structure; it reveals how things work. Synthesis focuses on function; it reveals why things operate as they do. Therefore, analysis yields knowledge; synthesis yields understanding. The former enables us to describe; the latter, to explain.
    3. There are 3 basic types of systems and models of them: deterministic (neither parts nor the whole are purposeful), animated (the whole is purposeful but the parts are not), social (parts and whole are purposeful). All are contained in ecological systems – some of whose parts are purposeful but not the whole
    4. Henry Ford’s phenomenal success in the creation of a mechanistic mass production system marked the beginning of the production era but contained the seeds of its demise. He failed to appreciate the potentiality of the process he initiated when he said, in effect, “they can have any color they want as long as it is black.” This gave Alfred Sloan of General Motors the opportunity to gain domination of the market. 
      1. Dialectical Materialism
    5. To grow is to increase in size or number. To develop is to increase one’s ability and desire to satisfy one’s own needs and legitimate desires and those of others. A legitimate desire is one that, when satisfied, does not impede the development of anyone else. Development is an increase in capability and competence. Development is better reflected in quality of life than in standard of living. 
    6. To learn is to increase one’s efficiency in the pursuit of a goal under unchanging conditions
    7. The principal objective of a contract should be to ensure terminal satisfaction of both parties
    8. Whatever else creativity implies, it implies production of the unexpected. It is the unexpected that produces the quantum leaps in development and quality of life
    9. Wisdom is the ability to see the long-run consequences of current actions, the willingness to sacrifice short-run gains for larger long-run benefits, and the ability to control what is controllable and not to fret over what is not. Therefore, the essence of wisdom is concern with the future. It is not the type of concern with the future that the fortune teller has; he only tries to predict it. The wise man tries to control it. Planning is the design of a desired future and of effective ways of bringing it about. It is an instrument that is used by the wise, but not by the wise alone. When conducted by lesser men it often becomes an irrelevant ritual that produces short-run peace of mind, but not the future that is longed for. 
    10. Unless the adoption of a mission statement changes the behavior of the firm that makes it, it has no value. It should differentiate it from other companies, a mission statement should define the business that the company wants to be in, not necessarily is in, should be relevant to all the firm’s stakeholders, should be exciting and inspiring, does not have to appear to be feasible, only desirable 
    11. Good management follows the 5 C’s: Competence, Communicativeness, Concern, Courage, Creativity. The greatest of these is creativity – the creative manager makes his own breaks 
      1. Chase, Chance, and Creativity 
    12. Beauty is that property of the works and workings of man and Nature that stimulates new aspirations and commitments to their pursuit. No wonder we say of a solution to a problem that inspires us, “it is beautiful.”
    13. A wrong solution to the right problem is generally better than the right solution to the wrong problem, because one usually gets feedback that enables one to correct wrong solutions, but not wrong problems. Wrong problems are perpetuated by right solutions to them. 
    14. The personality of a child added to a family tends to be formed so as to increase the stability of the family 
    15. Many people fail to realize that there are two kinds of power – power over and power to. Power over is authority and command, whereas power to is the ability to implement 
    16. Most of us who have suffered from an information overload are aware of the fact that when the amount of information exceeds a certain amount, a supersaturation point, both the amount and percentage of it that we try to absorb decreases. We give up hope of being able to keep up and abandon our efforts to do so. The more we get beyond this point the less we use. 
    17. It has long been known in science that the less we understand something, the more variables we require to explain it. Therefore, the manager who is asked what information he needs to control something he does not fully understand usually plays it safe and says he wants as much information as he can get
    18. Style has to do with the satisfaction we derive from what we do rather than what we do it for
    19. Stakeholder view of the firm – one stakeholder group, larger than all the others combined, is almost always ignored, future generations. They may be the ones most seriously affected by what is done today. How can their interests be taken into account when we do not know what their interests will be? We do know one thing about future generations: they will be interested in making their own decisions, not in having had us make their decisions for them. This requires keeping their options open 
    20. The difference between the amount of resources consumed by a corporation and the amount of consumption it makes possible is the amount of wealth it creates
    21. The principal responsibility of managers is to create an environment and conditions under which their subordinates and do their jobs as effectively as their capabilities allow. It is not to supervise them. That is, the principal responsibility of a manager is to manage over and up, not down, to manage the interactions of their units with the rest of the organization and its environment, not to manage the actions of their subordinates. If subordinates require supervision beyond an initial break-in period, they should be replaced by persons who do not require it

What I got out of it

  1. A brilliant thinker who makes the complex simple – especially liked what he had to say about education and solving – resolving – dissolving problems

Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life by Michael Lewis

Summary

  1. This book is about Michael Lewis high school baseball coach Billy Fitzgerald. Lewis can still recall the feelings his coach helped instill in him – the idea that he is about to show world and himself what he can do

Key Takeaways

  1. From the safe age of 43, 12 looks less an age than a disease
  2. Success to Fitz was a process and it was about sacrifice and dedication, not trophies and outcomes 
  3. He taught us how to cope and deal with the two enemies of a well-lived life. Fear and failure. We can never completely get rid of our weaknesses, fears, and failures, but we can’t get better. It is the quality of the struggle, the quality of the journey that counts

What I got out of it

  1. Beautiful story about Michael Lewis and his influential basketball coach, Billy Fitzgerald. The impact one person can have is just amazing and I’ve personally been lucky enough to experience that with several coaches/mentors and seek to be that mentor however and whenever I can

How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results by Esther Wojcicki

Summary

  1. Esther’s parenting style can be summed up with TRICK – trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness. This is the style she used to raise her 3 very successful children 

Key Takeaways

  1. Trust
    1. Never dismiss kid’s thoughts or ideas just because they’re kids. Listen to them and respect them
    2. Trust yourself and trust your kids. Lack of trust in our society creates anxiety and stress and this is passed onto our kids
    3. The majority of people are trustworthy and you want to instill this into your kids
    4. You need to start instilling trust in your baby as soon as they’re born. Respond to them and give them what they need so that they learn to trust you and their environment. Trust that they can put themselves to sleep. Comfort them and be with them when they cry or whimper, but you don’t always need to pick them up – just pat them on their stomachs when they’re lying on their back’s and give them a chance to soothe themselves. Kids learn to self soothe if you give them a chance to learn how. You want them to want to be with you and not to need to be with you
    5. Always ask yourself if what you’re doing is building and establishing trust or breaking it down
    6. Children need to take risks in order to learn, grow, and find their boundaries. Don’t instill your fears and biases in them – let them learn for themselves
    7. Kids will break your trust at some point – it is just part of life and you must hold them accountable but you can do so in a good-humored way so as not to rupture the relationship
    8. You have to trust that you’ve taught your kids well and you can’t control them. Let them make their own decisions and become their own people
    9. Parents need to calm down! Kids have their own timeline and will do it (whatever “it” is) when they’re ready. Obsessing and worrying about it won’t help anyone
  2. Respect
    1. Respect means living it out. You have to model it every day and in every interaction
    2. Never force subjects or hobbies on your kids. Find a way to get them self-motivated or into something else. Respect what your children are drawn to and let them pursue those interests. Don’t push what you want for them but make sure they’re always doing something outside of school
    3. Avoid baby talk – treat kids like adults as soon as possible, trust and respect them.
    4. Ages 0-5 are the most important socially and developmentally. Use them to help them become independent kids and later independent and empowered adults
    5. You have to respect kid’s timelines but when they’re doing nothing, such as when they graduate from college, you have to get them moving. Six months free rent is fine but they can’t be doing nothing
    6. Feeling respected as a human being is an innate want and when you don’t get it, it leads to fear, isolation, and distance between parent and child
  3. Independence
    1. Financial independence is of utmost importance to instill. Teach compound interest and the power of paying off credit cards every month. Travel and education should get the highest priority and spend
    2. Don’t do anything for your children that they can do themselves
    3. Practice the “French Pause” when your child wakes up in the middle of the night. Before rushing out and soothing your child, give them a minute to see if they self soothe. If not, go in and comfort them but this helps them learn how to soothe themselves and sleep without needing you there
    4. Temper trap tantrums are about control and, depending on the context and what they want, sometimes you should give it to them. About 20% of the time let them dress themselves or put on their own shoes or do what they’re asking. This will help give them a sense of accomplishment and help them learn
    5. Your kid’s homework is their work. Give them advice if they ask for it but never do it for them 
    6. Always give children a job that this theirs and theirs alone 
    7. Give them certain freedoms like decorating their own rooms
    8. Shopping is a great way to teach. Help your kids understand what a budget it, how to select groceries, how to put back products if you’re over budget, etc 
    9. It is really important for kids to see you feel and know that you don’t know everything. Admit when you messed up. react to it, well and show that failing is a huge and important part of learning
  4. Collaboration
    1. Collaborate > Dictate
    2. Cooperating with adults helps empowers kids and shows them that they can problem solve on their, own giving them confidence and independence
    3. Build a mutually beneficial relationship which helps deepen the relationship and build agency 
    4. Give options rather than dictating. Red or blue sweater? Rather than do you want to wear a sweater
    5. Get kids involved in chores, budgets, questions, planning, and decision making. This makes them feel valued. For example, ask them how they would regulate phone usage and that what they determine should be implemented
    6. Having a big group of friends and playing sports greatly help children learn how to collaborate 
    7. Guide and support their decisions rather than telling them what to do
    8. Important to have kids reflect and express their feelings. Can sit alone and think, write, or draw
  5. Kindness
    1. Kindness and gratitude are often overlooked. A self-centered view of the world is harmful and also takes away some of the major joys in life – helping others 
  6. 10 Commandments for Techs
    1. Set up a plan with your kids, not for your kids
    2. No phones during meals – in your house or other’s
    3. No tech after bedtime
    4. Show kids younger than 5 the basics and how to use a phone in case of an emergency
    5. Children should come up with their own tech policies for weekends, vacation, or other social events. Must also choose a penalty for breaking own policy
    6. Parental controls can be important, but after 8 they need to develop their own self-restraint. If they break your trust, the parental control switches back on
    7. Parents should model how they expect their kids to behave around technology
    8. Discuss what pictures/audio/video are appropriate to take – sometimes kids lack common sense. Remind them of the digital footprint they’re leaving behind
    9. Explain cyber-bullying and its negative impact, on them and others. Laugh with your friends, not at them
    10. Teach kids not to give out personal identification information 
  7. Other
    1. Teach kids how not to procrastinate – be effective and learn to do things immediately 
    2. Must examine own biases and flaws so we don’t pass onto our kids  If we don’t like me to pass on errors in how our parents raised us
    3. Book provides a series of questions that help you when your partner determine how you were raised and what values you want to pass on at which you don’t. Being on the same page and understanding and accepting your partner and their parenting style 
    4. Your goal is not to create a stress free or hardship free childhood. Rather, you want to instill your kids with character, traits, and independence of mind – to be able to face problems head-on and make sound decisions. If you can teach them how to think and be self-aware, you have done your job as a parent
    5. Establishing good habits from the start is much easier than trying to break bad ones later
    6. Kids learn more from how you handle your own mistakes and how you react than everything you talk about
    7. Asking “why” is so important to kids – Encourage them to always ask “why” by answering them seriously and honestly. If you don’t know, tell them “let’s find out.” This fuels their creativity, innovative thinking, independence, and more. 98% of kids have “genius-level creativity” but it slowly is removed through our education system. Only 2% of adults hold onto it.
    8. Creativity flows from play. Let them be and they’ll create their own worlds and keep themselves happy and occupied. Play with them and get down on their level, enter their worlds. Play and imagination is extremely important as it gets them to be able to step into another person‘s shoes building their compassion and empathy for others
    9. The ultimate goal as a teacher, parent, leader, is to make yourself obsolete. Point them to ideas of their own, teach them to think for themselves. Help and facilitate but never take over. 
    10. Instill grit (passion, conscientiousness, gratitude, delayed gratification, perseverance) into your kids. You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose your reactions and work ethic
    11. Learning how to deal with boredom and embracing it is vital 
    12. Solve arguments and discussions in front of kids so they see that it is ok to disagree and also how to problem solve together 
    13. Show that punctuality is important, as is clothing and appearance, how you treat others, cleaning up after yourself, having a healthy relationship with tech, how you manage health, stress, and exercise, ability to listen and discuss controversial topics and ideas, avoiding cursing and yelling as you can teach them inadvertently that this is an OK way to communicate with others, how you handle adversity and failure, ability to admit you’re wrong and forgive
    14. The most important skill parents model are successful interpersonal relationships
    15. Personal space, privacy, and relationships outside the family are important to keep top of mind and consistent
    16. Encourage your kids to write thank you cards and to journal at the end of the day since this helps to reflect and express gratitude
    17. Instill a sense of service, connection and an others-focused mentality so that your kids learn how to give back see that not everything is about them, building deep, meaningful relationships

What I got out of it

  1. One of my favorite books so far on parenting. The TRICK mindset is an invariant strategy, useful not only for kids, but any relationship.