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Anthony Stafford Beer

Anthony Stafford Beer

Overview
Anthony Stafford Beer was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 theorist, consultant
Consultant
A consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as management, accountancy, the environment, entertainment, technology, law , human resources, marketing, emergency management, food production, medicine, finance, life management, economics, public...

 and professor at the Manchester Business School
Manchester Business School
Manchester Business School is the largest department of the University of Manchester in Manchester, England. According to Bloomberg Business Week's ranking of the world's best business schools the MBS MBA is ranked third in the world...

. He is best known for his work in the fields of operational research and management cybernetics
Cybernetics
Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...

.

Beer was born in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. He started a degree in philosophy at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

, but left in 1944 to join the army. He saw service in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and stayed there until 1947. In 1949, he was demobilized, having reached the rank of captain.

He joined United Steel
United Steel Companies
The United Steel Companies were a steel making, engineering, coal mining and coal by-product group based in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.-History:...

 and persuaded the management to found an operational research group, the Department of Operations Research and Cybernetics, which he headed.
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Encyclopedia
Anthony Stafford Beer was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 theorist, consultant
Consultant
A consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as management, accountancy, the environment, entertainment, technology, law , human resources, marketing, emergency management, food production, medicine, finance, life management, economics, public...

 and professor at the Manchester Business School
Manchester Business School
Manchester Business School is the largest department of the University of Manchester in Manchester, England. According to Bloomberg Business Week's ranking of the world's best business schools the MBS MBA is ranked third in the world...

. He is best known for his work in the fields of operational research and management cybernetics
Cybernetics
Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...

.

Biography


Beer was born in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. He started a degree in philosophy at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

, but left in 1944 to join the army. He saw service in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and stayed there until 1947. In 1949, he was demobilized, having reached the rank of captain.

He joined United Steel
United Steel Companies
The United Steel Companies were a steel making, engineering, coal mining and coal by-product group based in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.-History:...

 and persuaded the management to found an operational research group, the Department of Operations Research and Cybernetics, which he headed. In 1961 he left United Steel to start an operational research consultancy in partnership with Roger Eddison called SIGMA (Science in General Management). Beer left SIGMA in 1966 to work for a SIGMA client, the International Publishing Corporation
IPC Media
IPC Media , a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Inc., is a consumer magazine and digital publisher in the United Kingdom, with a large portfolio selling over 350 million copies each year.- Origins :...

 (IPC). He was appointed development director at IPC and pushed for the adoption of new computer technologies. Beer left IPC in 1970 to work as an independent consultant, focusing on his growing interest in social systems.

In 1970, Beer was approached by Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende Gossens was a Chilean physician and politician who is generally considered the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a country in Latin America....

's elected socialist government of Chile
Chile under Allende
Salvador Allende was the president of Chile from 1970 until 1973, and head of the Popular Unity government; he was the first Marxist ever to be elected to the national presidency of a democracy...

 to develop a national real-time computerised system Cybersyn to run the entire Chilean economy
Economy of Chile
The economy of Chile is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank, and is one of South America's most stable and prosperous nations, leading Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, and low perception of...

. This project was never completed. When Allende was removed from power by General Augusto Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, more commonly known as Augusto Pinochet , was a Chilean army general and dictator who assumed power in a coup d'état on 11 September 1973...

's 1973 coup
Chilean coup of 1973
The 1973 Chilean coup d'état was a watershed event of the Cold War and the history of Chile. Following an extended period of political unrest between the conservative-dominated Congress of Chile and the socialist-leaning President Salvador Allende, discontent culminated in the latter's downfall in...

, the Cybersyn project was abandoned. Beer continued to work in the Americas, consulting for the governments of Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

 and Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

.

In the mid 1970s, Beer renounced material possessions and moved to mid-Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 where he lived in an almost austere style, developing strong interests in poetry and art. In the 1980s he established a second home on the west side of downtown Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 and lived part of the year in both residences. Beer kept active with work in his field.

Beer was a visiting professor at almost 30 universities and received honorary doctorates from the University of Leeds
University of Leeds
The University of Leeds is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England...

, the University of St. Gallen, the University of Sunderland
University of Sunderland
The University of Sunderland is located in Sunderland, north east England. The university has more than 17,500 students, including 7,000-plus international students from some 70 countries....

 and the University of Valladolid. He was president of the World Organization of Systems and Cybernetics. And he received awards from the Royal Swedish Academy for Engineering Sciences in 1958, from the United Kingdom Systems Society, the Cybernetics Society
Cybernetics Society
The Cybernetics Society is the UK based learned society that exists to promote the understanding of cybernetics. The core activity of the Cybernetics Society is the organization and facilitation of scientific meetings, conferences, and social events...

, the American Society for Cybernetics
American Society for Cybernetics
The American Society for Cybernetics is an American non-profit scholastic organization for organization for the advancement of cybernetics as a science and the interdisciplinary collaboration and synthesis of cybernetics. The society contributes to the cooperation around the research and...

, and the Operations Research Society of America.

He was married twice, in 1947 to Cynthia Hannaway and in 1968 to Sallie Steadman. His partner for the last twenty years of his life was Dr Allenna Leonard
Allenna Leonard
Allenna Leonard is an American cyberneticist, consultant and Director of Team Syntegrity Inc. of Toronto, Canada, internationally, specializing in the application of Stafford Beer's Viable System Model and Syntegration.- Biography :...

, a fellow cybernetician. Beer had five sons and three daughters, one of whom is Vanilla Beer
Vanilla Beer
Vanilla Beer is a British artist.She trained at the West Surrey School of Art and Design and the Farnham and Walthamstow School of Art, London. Vanilla's first major solo show was at Gallery 181, curated by Alan Haydon in 1983. Her first major installation was commissioned by John Gill for the...

, an artist and essayist. Stafford Beer died in Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 on August 23, 2002 at the age of 75 years after a considerable period of ill-health.

Work


Stafford Beer worked in the fields of operational research, cybernetics
Cybernetics
Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...

 and management science. He had become aware of operational research while being in the army, and he was quick to identify the advantages it could bring to business.

In the late 1950s, he published his first book about cybernetics and management, building on the ideas of Norbert Wiener
Norbert Wiener
Norbert Wiener was an American mathematician.A famous child prodigy, Wiener later became an early researcher in stochastic and noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronic engineering, electronic communication, and control systems.Wiener is regarded as the originator of cybernetics, a...

, Warren McCulloch
Warren Sturgis McCulloch
Warren Sturgis McCulloch was an American neurophysiologist and cybernetician, known for his work on the foundation for certain brain theories and his contribution to the cybernetics movement.- Biography :...

, and especially William Ross Ashby
William Ross Ashby
W. Ross Ashby was an English psychiatrist and a pioneer in cybernetics, the study of complex systems. His first name was not used: he was known as Ross Ashby....

 for a systems approach to the management of organisations.

In the 1970s, he also wrote a series of books (the last three focussing upon his own Viable System Model
Viable System Model
The viable systems model, or VSM is a model of the organisational structure of any viable or autonomous system. A viable system is any system organised in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are...

 for organisation modelling):

In the 1990s, he published one of his last books about Team Syntegrity: a formal model, built on the polyhedra idea of systems for non-hierarchical problem solving.

Management cybernetics



According to Jackson (2000) "Beer was the first to apply cybernetics to management, defining cybernetics as the science of effective organization". In the 1960s and early 1970s "Beer was a prolific writer and an influential practitioner" in management cybernetics
Management cybernetics
Management cybernetics is the field of cybernetics concerned with management and organizations. The notion of cybernetics and management was first introduced by Stafford Beer in the late 1950s-Cybernetics and Complexity:...

. It was during that period that he developed the viable system model
Viable System Model
The viable systems model, or VSM is a model of the organisational structure of any viable or autonomous system. A viable system is any system organised in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are...

, to diagnose the faults in any existing organizational system. In that time Forrester
Jay Wright Forrester
Jay Wright Forrester is a pioneer American computer engineer, systems scientist and was a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Forrester is known as the founder of System Dynamics, which deals with the simulation of interactions between objects in dynamic systems.- Biography :Forrester...

 invented systems dynamics, which "held out the promise that the behavior of whole systems could be represented and understood through modeling the dynamical feedback process going on within them".

Management cybernetics is the application of cybernetic laws to all types of organization
Organization
An organization is a social group which distributes tasks for a collective goal. The word itself is derived from the Greek word organon, itself derived from the better-known word ergon - as we know `organ` - and it means a compartment for a particular job.There are a variety of legal types of...

s and institution
Institution
An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human community...

s created by human beings, and to the interaction
Interaction
Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way causal effect...

s within them and between them. It is a theory based on natural laws. It addresses the issues that every individual
Individual
An individual is a person or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive...

 who wants to influence an organization in any way must learn to resolve. This theory is not restricted to the actions of top managers
Management
Management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively...

. Every member of an organization and every person who, to a greater or lesser extent, communicates or interacts with it is involved in the considerations.

Cybersyn




During the administration of Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende Gossens was a Chilean physician and politician who is generally considered the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a country in Latin America....

 in Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, in the early 1970s, a visionary project about the use of information and communications in government was undertaken by Stafford Beer. The project was called Cybersyn, and contemplated the transmission of information in real-time
Real-time computing
In computer science, real-time computing , or reactive computing, is the study of hardware and software systems that are subject to a "real-time constraint"— e.g. operational deadlines from event to system response. Real-time programs must guarantee response within strict time constraints...

 to support the management of the country’s industrial economy. At its core was an Operations Room constantly receiving and displaying information and transmitting decisions.

A network of about 500 telex
Teleprinter
A teleprinter is a electromechanical typewriter that can be used to communicate typed messages from point to point and point to multipoint over a variety of communication channels that range from a simple electrical connection, such as a pair of wires, to the use of radio and microwave as the...

 machines linking the country from north to south supported all this. A single computer center in Santiago
Santiago, Chile
Santiago , also known as Santiago de Chile, is the capital and largest city of Chile, and the center of its largest conurbation . It is located in the country's central valley, at an elevation of above mean sea level...

 controlled them, using principles of cybernetics
Cybernetics
Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...

. The project had the participation of a multidisciplinary group of national and international scientists. Their task was to build a system for distributed decision-making supported by relevant information. But their efforts were interrupted by the coup d'état of 1973.

Viable System Model



The Viable System Model
Viable System Model
The viable systems model, or VSM is a model of the organisational structure of any viable or autonomous system. A viable system is any system organised in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are...

 (VSM) is a model of the organisational structure of any viable or autonomous system
System
System is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole....

. A viable system is any system organised in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are adaptable. The VSM expresses a model for a viable system, which is an abstracted cybernetic description that is applicable to any organisation that is a viable system and capable of autonomy.

Syntegrity


Syntegrity
Syntegrity
Syntegrity is a formal model presented by Anthony Stafford Beer, a British theorist, in the 1990s and now is a registered trademark. It is a form of non-hierarchical problem solving that can be used in a small team of 10 to 42 people...

 is a formal model presented by Beer in the 1990s and now is a registered trademark. It is a form of non-hierarchical problem solving that can be used in a small team of 10 to 42 people. It is a business consultation product that is licensed out to consulting firms as a basis model for solving problems in a team environment.

"Syntegrity", "Syntegration", "Team Syntegrity", and "Team Syntegration" are all registered trademarks. The term "Syntegrity" is a portmanteau of “synergistic tensegrity
Tensegrity
Tensegrity, tensional integrity or floating compression, is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension, in such a way that the compressed members do not touch each other and the prestressed tensioned members delineate the...

".

POSIWID



Stafford Beer coined and frequently used the term POSIWID (the purpose of a system is what it does) to refer to the commonly observed phenomenon that the de facto purpose of a system is often at odds with its official purpose. Beer coined the term POSIWID and used it many times in public addresses. Perhaps most forcefully in his address to the University of Valladolid
University of Valladolid
The University of Valladolid is a public university in the city of Valladolid, province of Valladolid, in the autonomous region of Castile-Leon, Spain...

, Spain in October 2001, he said "According to the cybernetician the purpose of a system is what it does. This is a basic dictum. It stands for bald fact, which makes a better starting point in seeking understanding than the familiar attributions of good intention, prejudices about expectations, moral judgment or sheer ignorance of circumstances."

Literature


Stafford Beer wrote several books and articles:
  • 1959, Cybernetics and Management, English Universities Press
  • 1966, Decision and Control, Wiley, London
  • 1972, Brain Of The Firm, Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, London, Herder and Herder, USA.Translated into German, Italian, Swedish and French.
  • 1974, Designing Freedom, CBC Learning Systems, Toronto, 1974; and John Wiley, London and New York, 1975. Translated into Spanish and Japanese.
  • 1975, Platform for Change, John Wiley, London and New York. Reprinted with corrections 1978.
  • 1977, Transit; Poems, CWRW Press, Wales. Limited Edition, Private Circulation.
  • 1979, The Heart of Enterprise, John Wiley, London and New York. Reprinted with corrections 1988.
  • 1981, Brain of the Firm; Second Edition (much extended), John Wiley, London and New York. Reprinted 1986, 1988. Translated into Russian.
  • 1983, Transit; Poems, Second edition (much extended). With audio cassettes: Transit – Selected Readings, and one Person Metagame; Mitchell Communications, Publisher, PO Box 2878, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.
  • 1985, Diagnosing the System for Organizations; John Wiley, London and New York. Translated into Italian and Japanese. Reprinted 1988, 1990, 1991.
  • 1986, Pebbles to Computer: The Thread; (with Hans Blohm
    Hans Blohm
    Hans-Ludwig Blohm is a photographer and author. Over three decades, he has criss-crossed the Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska, capturing images and stories of the Inuit. He has driven 16 times from his home in Ottawa to different parts of the North logging from 20 500 to 25 000 km each trip...

    ), Oxford University Press, Toronto.
  • 1994, Beyond Dispute: The Invention of Team Syntegrity; John Wiley, Chichester.


Audio
  • 1990, Stafford Beer, "Forty Years of Cybernetics", Gordon Hyde Memorial Lecture at the Cybernetics Society
    Cybernetics Society
    The Cybernetics Society is the UK based learned society that exists to promote the understanding of cybernetics. The core activity of the Cybernetics Society is the organization and facilitation of scientific meetings, conferences, and social events...

     in London January 1990, audio file: 1hr 27mins.


About Stafford Beer
  • 1994, Harnden, R and Leonard, A.
    Allenna Leonard
    Allenna Leonard is an American cyberneticist, consultant and Director of Team Syntegrity Inc. of Toronto, Canada, internationally, specializing in the application of Stafford Beer's Viable System Model and Syntegration.- Biography :...

     (Eds.), How Many Grapes Went into the Wine: Stafford Beer on the Art and Science of Holisitic Management; John Wiley, Chichester.
  • 2003, Whittaker, David, Stafford Beer: A Personal Memoir; (Includes an interview with Brian Eno) Wavestone Press, Charlbury
  • 2006, Jonathan Rosenhead, "IFORS' Operational Research Hall of Fame Stafford Beer", in International Transactions in Operational Research Vol 13, nr.6, pp. 577–581.
  • 2009, Whittaker, David, (Ed.) Think Before you Think: Social Complexity and Knowledge of Knowing; (Selected writings of Stafford Beer with life chronology), Foreword by Brian Eno, Wavestone Press, Charlbury

External links




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