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Russell Ackoff is likely the Albert Einstein of management. The reasoning is this: he created what is in essence a Generalized Ontology of Problem Solving just as Einstein created the Generalized Theory of Relativity.

By comparison,  most management gurus, consulting principals and executives only master a special case problem solving heuristic. Lower level managers and consultants are only able to reproduce a priori defined special case problem solving algorithms.

Professor John Geto of Krasnow Institute of Advanced Study cautions that without an ontology we are liable to continually reinvent new terms for existing knowledge, making it difficult to achieve a strong foundation on which to build. Management in general and management consulting in particular can in large part be paraphrased as problem solving common sense; yet, the generalized problem solving ontology carefully crafted by the genius of Ackoff has not been widely adopted. In a hierarchy management masters Ackoff’s generalized and universal thinking pedestal is permanent and situated on significantly higher ground than the altars at which most of us currently worship: innovation and Clayton Christiansen, Design Thinking and Roger Martin, Gary Hamel and Management 2.0, etc.

As in the popular “Matrix” movies, Ackoff is “the one”. But, it appears we may need a Morpheus character like advocate within the management discipline. And we need to overcome our latest infatuation with progress only possible in teams; the Theory of General Relativity could not have been a crowd sourced innovation on Facebook. Sometimes it takes “the one”.

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