The Advantages of Open Systems Theory

by Kristyn Hammond; Updated September 26, 2017
Open systems theory describes how a system works within a larger environment.

In 1956, Ludwig Von Bertanlanffy developed open systems theory, which he described as the process by which the environment affects a system and influences the way it functions. For Bertanlanffy, previous system theory, which held to the principle that each system was independent of external forces, failed to account for the changing world, such as the effects of World War I and World War II on the economic market and corporate functions.

Environmental Considerations

Open systems theory stipulates that the functions of a system must coincide with the environmental conditions. For instance, a modern computer software company benefits from open systems theory because it takes into account modern cultural changes and needs, allowing the software company to produce marketable products that influence and meet those specific needs. Additionally, this includes a level of social awareness, dictating that customers will choose to do business with a company that observes certain safety or environmental protocols more often than a company that does not meet those expectations. The advantage is a corporate design that is more socially conscious and market focused.

Supply Understanding

Systems require an understanding of supply functions in order to deliver a quality result from the process. Open systems theory suggests that the supply functions are inherently more important than previously accepted theories understood. As an example, each school grade for a student relied upon knowledge from previous school grades. As a result, teachers and parents understand this reliance and see previous education as the supply line for a child’s current level of understanding. Teachers and parents are motivated by their desire for the child to succeed and can exert pressure on previous grade levels to include important information or require additional time spent on a particular subject. The advantage is an increased universal model for collaborative systems, which brings systems together around mutually beneficial interests.


Market predictions are performed with an understanding of the changing environment surrounding various systems. Open systems theory suggests that system organizers should examine these environmental forces to predict and proactively respond to potential problems. For instance, if you ran your restaurant based on open systems theory, you would be particularly interested in studying changing cultural elements and preferences and adapting your menu to meet prospective changes. Specifically, when you notice that your community’s interests are growing more healthy, you can add more healthy options to your basic menu.

Long-term Considerations

The results of a closed system are not considered significant, even when those secondary results negatively impact the world. Open systems theory suggests that the secondary results of your system increase or decrease the continuity of your system. For instance, if your production plant creates a significant environmental hazard, open systems theory suggests that you should develop a cleaner waste system that does not harm the environment, because the long-term buildup of your current system will be detrimental to your ability to produce in the future.

About the Author

Kristyn Hammond has been teaching freshman college composition at the university level since 2010. She has experience teaching developmental writing, freshman composition, and freshman composition and research. She currently resides in Central Texas where she works for a small university in the Texas A&M system of schools.

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