Improvements must consider the overarching system to be effective.

Systems are comprised of the interactions of components, not the sum of the qualities of the components. Increasing the efficiency of a component therefore only improves the effectiveness of the system (efficiency toward its goals) if the interactions within the system are improved as a result. Solving undesirable traits does not necessarily improve desirable traits.

“Doing the wrong thing right is not nearly as good as doing the right thing wrong.”

Instead, one must decide what one wants from the system, choose applicable interventions, and make changes with the whole system in mind—optimizing components is usually ineffective. Meaningful improvement entails creativity—jumping to a new state, not tinkering forward.rA4

  1. Russell Ackoff, “From Data to Wisdom,” Journal of Applied Systems Analysis 16 (1989): 3–7. (See notes.)