Idealized Design and the Hierarchy of Ways of Addressing Problems

Systems thinking teacher, the late Russel Ackoff teaches an elegant framework — the 4 ways of addressing problems, which exist on a hierarchy. Most people people think of the third as the peak method of addressing problems, not aware that there is one higher. The four ways:

Absolution — ignoring the problem;

Resolution — returning things to the state they were in before there was a problem;

and what most think of as the pinnacle of addressing problems —

Solution — solving the problem, improving the situation.

According to Ackoff, however, the peak approach is

Dissolution — rather than trying to tackle the problem directly, redesign the system within which the problem sits so there is no problem in the first place.

This practice is referred to as idealized design. What does it have to offer the impact community?

So much of the incredible energy towards changing the world gets focused on changing and improving upon existing systems, institutions, and organizations.

While this is important, we must also be designing the kind of world we want. If we don’t know where we want to go, how are we going to get there?

What does it mean to design the world we want? That’s something we have to figure out together, but we are getting started with the first platform in the Global Unity ecosystem, SocietyOS — a crowdsourced civilization design platform. More information coming soon.

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Elliott Bayev

Elliott Bayev

Author, Systems Change Thinker, Martial Artist