History : Ludwig V. Bertalanffy was born in September 19, 1901, and grew up in the little village of Atzgersdorf near Vienna. He was known as one of the founders of general systems theory (GST). Von Bertalanffy grew up in Austria and subsequently worked in Vienna, London, Canada and the USA. In 1972, he died from a sudden heart attack. Theory ( Open System ): Ludwig developed open system theory between 1930 and 1956. By the early 1960s, theoretical psychologists applied the theory to organizational structures such as governments, universities and businesses.
Any time an individual organization uses resources from its environment–including personnel–in its production, its system is open to outside forces. System Characteristics: When a business regularly interacts with its environment, and exchanges and processes feedback, it is an open system organizational structure. Open systems have open, or porous, boundaries that allow feedback exchanges from inside and outside the business.
The controllers of open systems pay attention to their external environment, internal environment and customer needs and reactions. Open systems tend to devise more than one way to accomplish goals or reach similar results with different conditions and operations–what von Bertalanffy called “ equifinality . ” This is in direct contrast to closed systems that function under the assumption that there is only one way to achieve a result: a direct relationship between cause and effect. Open Systems in Business:
Businesses depend on employees, suppliers, customers and even the competition for research, development and profit. Because the business doesn’t have control of all the environmental forces, it relies on predictions and contingencies to cope with unexpected input. For example, an influenza epidemic can affect suppliers, personnel and even customers, causing lost production and lost profit. Benefits: Open system organizational structures promote effective problem solving by clarifying the big picture.
Continuous feedback and response results in better understanding, by leadership and management, of the organization’s structure within the environment and the interactive dynamics between them. That opens the door for better communication and more feedback. When the system and subsystems have enough feedback, the results can produce more clearly directed planning, intelligent design, useful products and necessary services.