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Vanilla Beer and Allenna Leonard

Sep 27, 2021

Stafford Beer

The Father of Management Cybernetics


In this episode I am in conversation with artist and author Vanilla Beer about her 2019 book Stafford Beer: The Father of Management Cybernetics. While he got his start in the academic world, it was in industry where Stafford Beer made is most recognized contributions. Beer is best known for being the first systems thinker to apply cybernetics to management; it is from this work that he developed his Viable System Model (VSM). There is nothing theoretical about Beer's solutions - they are all grounded in practice. Their successful application caused him to be invited to work for Salvador Allende in Chile and for many other companies and governments. His insistence that hierarchical models will fail the people whom they are supposed to serve is axiomatic to his thinking.

Stafford Beer: The Father of Management Cybernetics is presented in a fun comic book style that tells the story of Stafford Beer - man, father, thinker, practitioner. In it we get a glimpse into Beer's early influences and the role his spirituality played in life and work. Allenna Leonard, Beer's partner later in life - until his death in Toronto in 2002, contributes a fantastic cybernetics glossary readers will want to refer to time and again. I am pleased to share my conversation with Vanilla Beer as a way to mark Stafford Beer's 95th birthday. Vanilla shares tremendous insights about her father, a man who contributed greatly to systems sciences, and whose name will forever be associated with cybernetics.

Kevin Lindsay is a 25+ year Silicon Valley software product strategist and marketer, and graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

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