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Operational Research (OR) and Design

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Operational Research (O.R.) a.k.a Management Science is often described as being about using analytical and modelling methods to inform management decisions. That is quite correct, as far as it goes. But it does not go far enough, O.R. is typically concerned with improving the performance of complex enterprises – organized dynamic systems of people, material and non-material resources. This is not just a matter of informing management decisions – a lot of O.R. work is focused as much, if not more, on improving system design. (The tagline for O.R., “the science of better”, hints at something that goes beyond decision support – O.R. as “system improvement science”.).

The talk will address: - the recognition of the importance of design for operational research and management science by early luminaries such as the Nobel laureate Herbert Simon and the management thinker Russ Ackoff – the development, partially in recognition of this importance , of what came to be called “soft O.R.” - the fact that, despite the above history, design thinking is not widely regarded as a foundation stone of operational research and some reasons for this. - the interesting reciprocal history of O.R. in the design world - the different approaches of designers and scientists to solving the same problem and the need for combining “left brain” and “right brain” thinking - the need for training and development in O.R. to give much greater attention to the relevant skills and mindsets required for design thinking - the need for much greater dialogue between the operational research and the design communities .

SPEAKER ’S BIO Dr Geoff Royston is former Head of Strategic Analysis and Operational Research in the Department of Health for England, where for almost two decades he was the professional lead for a large group of health analysts. He is now an independent analyst and researcher and is the current President of the Operational Research Society. He is also an Associate of the Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST) and a Senior Associate of the Centre for Health Service Economics and Organisation at Nuffield College Oxford. He has had a wide range of activities and responsibilities involving analysis and research to inform the design, implementation and evaluation of evidence-based policies and programmes in the health field. He has particular experience of modelling and understanding the behaviour of complex systems; of monitoring performance and evaluating the impact of innovations; of resource allocation methods; of analysis and communication of risk; and of horizon scanning and futures thinking. Much of his work has involved assisting others to develop strategies, policies and programmes, and developing their capacity to do this more effectively. This has included designing and running participative events up to and including Chief Executive and Board level. He has also worked on information and communication technology in the health sector, and has been an adviser to the UK communications industry regulator (OFCOM). He made the original proposal for the development of the telephone and internet service “NHS Direct” and subsequently led its national launch. Dr Royston has been a member of various university advisory groups, has been an external examiner for postgraduate courses in operational research and management science, and has served on both scientific and medical UK Research Council panels. He has published extensively in both health and management journals and is a member of the editorial board for the journal Health Care Management Science, and is its Guest Editor for a forthcoming Special Issue on Global Health. He has a variety of experience in the international health arena including being a consultant for the World Health Organisation, an adviser to the HIFA (Health Information for All) 2015 programme and a long standing member of the EURO Working Group on Operational Research Applied to Health Services. He was Chair of the UK Government Operational Research Service in 2003/4. In 2008 he was elected Companion of Honour of the Operational Research Society and in 2010 he was elected to be the Society’s President for 2012-2013.

This talk is part of the Operational Research (OR) and Design series.

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