The Democratic Corporation by Russell L. Ackoff
A Radical Prescription for Recreating Corporate America and Rediscovering Success

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We all know that American business needs fixing, and there is no shortage of prescriptions: imitate the Japanese, or follow the example of successful firms, or practice right-sizing. But these approaches do not work very well, says Russell Ackoff, because they only attack the problem piecemeal--and it is the entire system of American business that is flawed. In this revolutionary new book by a widely respected business thinker and pioneer in the fields of operations research and systems thinking, Ackoff underscores the urgent need to overhaul the kinds of systems found in America, from our business schools to our boardrooms. And he shows how firms can break out of the mold--and leapfrog the competition in today's volatile economy.
To give managers insight into the concept of organizations, Ackoff shows how they have been viewed since the Renaissance: first as machines, later as organisms, and today as social systems. As social systems, companies produce and distribute wealth and raise our standard of living. They are also responsible for facilitating and encouraging the development of the larger systems that contain them and all their stakeholders. The quality of worklife within an organization is key. Work has to be challenging and enjoyable if workers are to give it their full commitment, and Ackoff outlines major ways to achieve this goal. Along the way, Ackoff explodes a number of fashionable business notions. He asserts that firms that try to imitate successful competitors are doomed to play catch-up forever. He attacks the idea of continuous improvement, showing that it has failed to make quantum leaps in quality, and he demonstrates how to re-orient the pursuit of quality. After revealing the weakness in many current practices, Ackoff describes three organizational schemes that will lead to success. In the Circular Organization, a democratic hierarchy, everyone participates directly or indirectly in decisions that affect their work. In the Internal Market Economy, organizations treat their different parts like a collection of firms doing business with each other--which promotes cooperation and eliminates wasteful internal competition. And with the Multidimensional Organization, a company becomes so powerful and flexible that continuous adaptation can happen without reorganization.
Ackoff caps off the book with an incisive critique of business schools, describing how they must be transformed to turn out the leaders we need for the competitive American organization of the 21st century. Enabling managers to understand the profound interrelationships in the American economy and to tap into them for success, The Democratic Corporation is a major work by an innovative thinker that is certain to cause ripples throughout the business community.
 

About Russell L. Ackoff

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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.
 
Published June 30, 1994 by Oxford University Press, USA. 272 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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An epilogue critiques business schools as ``bastions of dynamic conservatism'' and suggests ways they can better train leaders for the competitive global business environment.

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