Last Updated 10 May 2021

The Boundaries of Open Systems

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Open systems refer to systems that interact with other systems or the outside environment, whereas closed systems refer to systems having relatively little interaction with other systems or the outside environment. All systems have boundaries. This is not always obvious in social systems such as organizations. The boundaries of open systems are, by way of their method of existence, more flexible than those of closed systems, which can be rigid and largely impenetrable.

A closed-system perspective views organizations a relatively independent of environmental influences. The closed-system approach conceives the organization as being a system of management, technology, personnel, equipment, and materials but tends to exclude competitors, suppliers, distributors, and governmental regulators. Organizational theorists would examine this type of organization with little consideration of the external environment. It is believed that limited environmental input is required for effective operation.

Strategies and other decision-making processes give relatively little consideration to the impact any external forces might have on the internal operations of the organization. The closed-system approach fails to take into account how organizations are reciprocally dependant on external environments.

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Environmental forces such as customers and competitors exert considerable influence on corporations, highlighting the essential relationship between an organization and its environment as well as the importance of maintaining external inputs to achieve a stable organization. Open-systems theory originated in the natural sciences and subsequently spread to other fields, management being one of them. The open-system perspective views an organization as an entity that takes inputs from the environment, transforms them, and releases them as outputs in tandem with reciprocal effects on the organization itself along with the environment in which the organization operates. The organization becomes part of the environment in which it is situated.

Companies use inputs such as labor, funds, equipment and materials to produce goods or provide services and they design their subsystems to attain these goals. Open-system organizations can be regarded as open social systems with specialized and interdependent subsystems and processes of communication, feedback, and management linking the subsystems. Subsystems are individually and together responsible for collecting, processing and providing the organization with information about its environment with the goal of aiding the company’s adaptation to external conditions in its environment.

In contrast to closed-systems, the open-system approach does not assume that the environment is static. Change is the rule, rather than the exception. As an open system an organization maintains its stability through feedback. Closed systems versus open systems do not represent a dichotomy, but rather a continuum along which organizations are more open or less open to their environments. The key defining variable governing this degree of openness is the complexity of the environment in which the organization is situated.

Writer takes into consideration his organizations position along the open-closed continuum. A stable environment with low complexity is more consistent with a relatively closed system, while rapidly changing environments are more consistent with flexible, decentralized, open systems. Emotional intelligence is a term formulated by John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire (Le Roux, et al: 9) and refers to a person’s ability to form a conscious relation between thoughts, feelings and behavior.

This awareness leads to improved communication, an ability to clearly express one’s thoughts/feelings in a controlled and acceptable way. Emotionally intelligent people are generally good listeners, empathetic towards others, communicate effectively, make good use of the information they receive, are highly motivated, self-disciplined, have goals and manage their lives effectively. They regularly display good intra- and interpersonal relations. Writer identifies the areas of emotional intelligence where he feels improvement is necessary. This will include changing outdated habits, behaviors and thinking patterns (paradigms) that no longer serve writer. Writer will acquire information and integrate it by practicing these skills in social situations within and outside the organization. Because there are many cognitive methods and established truths that contradict each other, one must remain objectively critical].

Writer believes that he must acquire, through practice deliberate emotional, and social skills that enable one to put his general understanding of well-being into practice that are suitable to each occasion. As far as his fear of flying is concerned, writer realizes need to express these feelings of fear (to a person equipped to listen – writer does not want to share these feelings with someone else who is also afraid of flying) in order to enhance his emotional awareness and ability to overcome this specific fear.

The Boundaries of Open Systems essay

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The Boundaries of Open Systems. (2018, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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