Rusell Ackoff in his book and method called Idealized Design[1, 2], observes that planners often propose and implement minor changes to messy problematic situations because they are immersed in the current system and thus are mentally restricted from thinking creatively. Thus "solutions" are not radical enough to really solve or dissolve the current mess. He invites us to assume that the current system has been destroyed last night and that we are free to imagine a completely new ideal system that would completely replace the actual system. In our case, the current system would be the university of your choice.

Three features of the ideal system thus imagined avoid thinking up impossible utopias: The new ideal system must be technologically feasible; if it were implemented, it would work within its enclosing system; and must be adaptable to likely changes in itself or its environment. Further, all relevant stakeholders or their representatives must participate in the design of the ideal system, so they feel an ownership of the new design.

Now of course the current system has not really been destroyed, and the new system may not be implementable immediately for whatever reasons - it is an ideal to strive for. So the next step is to plan, design, implement and monitor a series of changes to the current system that moves it towards the ideal.

In his book, Ackoff and his co/authors detail the steps of the method and give numerous real examples of application of Idealized Design in several business and non-profit organizations; also they tackle a couple of societal problems. Here we will follow a simplified version of the process and attempt an Idealized Design of the future University. So the enclosing system is the rest of Society including its regulatory bodies.

The stakeholders invited to this design are all interested eduMooc participants, since many of you hold university teaching or administrative positions.

The first step of Ackoff's method is "formulating the mess". He says: Argue persuasively that if nothing is done, the current system will destroy itself. This motivates stakeholders to engage in idealized design. Add your thoughts here, or discuss issues in the discussion page of this page:

The second step is to write a Mission Statement for the new ideal system:

The third step is to specify the properties of the new system:

The fourth is to detail the design:

Finally, we must plan, design and monitor a series of changes to the current system to gradually move it towards the ideal. Here is the first one:


[1] Ackoff, Rusell L.; Jason Magidson & Herbert J. Addison. Idealized Design: How to Dissolve Tomorrow's Crisis...Today. Prentice Hall 2006.

[2] Ackoff, Rusell L. A brief guide to interactive planning and idealized design.