We all know that one of the first signs that you’re getting old is when your friends begin dying. My father, at 90 years of age, used to tell me that he felt like the official pall bearer at his church.
I received some news today that made me realize that time does take its toll in different ways at different stages in one’s life. I just realized that my intellectual heroes are dying. Russell Ackoff has died at 90. “Cantankerous Russ” was a cool guy. He was a pioneer of systems thinking and organizational design long before it gained today’s popularity. To really get to know this man and his work go to the Ackoff Collaboratory for Advancement of the Systems Approach. Whenever I read one of his 31 books I made sure I had a hi-lighter close at hand.
Another recently fallen one is Robert Spinrad, a former director of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He was 77 and known for enouraging innovation and creativity among his fellow engineering researchers. He could even bring together scientists and corporate executives, sort of a modern-day mind mash-up. For years I thought it would be cool to work at PARC.
Guys like Ackoff and Spinrad never gained the notoriety of a Peter Drucker. But they plowed a lot of ground and I am indebted to them. On behalf of my generation – thanks for the hi-lights gentlemen.