March 28th, 2012 Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
I’m writing a paper with tips non-profit and government leaders can take from how the Internet was built. For lack of a better term, I’m calling the organization that built the Internet (broadly defined to include the web) an “open system” as opposed to traditional organizations which I call “closed systems”. I would like to use a clear, readable, definition and assume one exists (or maybe a better term?) but haven’t found it. Any suggestions on where to look, better definitions, better terms to use, or wording and expansion on what is below? (Thanks for your help.)
I’d like to include 1) a dictionary type definition, and 2) a compare/contrast list that illustrates the differences between the two approaches. Here’s what I have so far:
In systems theory, an open system is a system which continuously interacts with its environment. In technology, it is one that supports “open standards” and can be made to interoperate with other computer systems. In science it means a system that allows matter or energy to flow across system boundaries. For the purpose of this paper an open system is an organization or project that has porous, flexible, boundaries and is open to contributions, ideas, and direction from the outside. This is in contrast to our traditional organization and project structures which are “closed systems” and have clearly defined boundaries and tightly control resources, direction setting, and production. Note that these are extremes and in real life there is a continuum of behavior between these poles.
Table Comparing characteristic tendencies of closed vs. open systems
||Clearly identified. Leadership and authority positions tightly tied.
||Leadership actions can be made by a variety of actors. Leadership and authority loosely coupled.
||Strong. Authority figures can firmly set and enforce direction and organize activities.
||Weak. Authority figures suggest and cajole directions and activities.
||Clearly defined by employment, contracts, or formal declarations
||May not be clearly defined. Determined by adoption of behaviors.
||Tightly held. Intellectual and physical property is owned by the system and controlled by its authorities.
||Open and shared. Intellectual property is open licensed and shared. Use is determined by users.
||Fixed and firm. Members are in or out.
||Porous. Participants may join and leave, without giving notice.
||Unitary and clear. Established by authorities.
||Different in different parts of the system and determined by participants.
||Made by those “above” in the hierarchy and passed down.
||Made in many places throughout the system.
||Fixed and hierarchical one to many relationships (e.g., employee reporting to employer) and hub and spoke (e.g., suppliers providing to a manufacturer)
||Fluid networks with bi-directional communications and activities.
||Clearly defined and reliant on financial rewards – salaries, fees, bonuses.
||Mixed and reliant on financial as well as other personal rewards including acknowledgement, mastery, social good.
||Headquarters is clearly defined. Work is done in offices and factories.
||No physical headquarters. Work is done in many venues.
||During formal “work hours” with official vacations
||Happens at any time, often during vacations!