Book News: August 12th, 2011

This book by Russell L. Ackoff is an annotated glossary of distinctions important in management . He argues that thinkers very great and very small – from Voltaire to Conservapedia – have underlined the importance of first defining your terms – establishing the exact dimensions of the beast before attempting to argue about it, slay it or revere it.

In Differences that Make a Difference, the last manuscript that he was to complete before his death, he does exactly that. The book brings together 57 definitions of important terms and concepts, many of which underpin Ackoff’s contribution to organizational learning.

Often when an argument seems irrational it is in fact rational, but this can only be understood if you attempt to get to the bottom of each party’s judgments in order to see the objectives and values that motivate them. Arguing about someone’s values is “fruitless”, as it will be very difficult to change them – but realizing the significant role values play in making judgements will lead to smoother discussions and more constructive decision-making.

For managers, leaders, executives, MBA students, hierarchs and heterarchs of all ages, this book of Russ Ackoff’s is a perfect introduction to his writing and thinking. It is, as Charles Handy says, “a manual for clear thinking” – and a fitting tribute to the man.

Published by Triarchy Press. ISBN: 978-1-908009-01-2. £14.00