- Jenna Lyles
1. Equifinality: To understand the system property of Equifinality is to understand the old adage “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” This means that ultimately the guarantee of success is not reliant on taking/completing any singular path, procedure, or means of fulfilling a system goal. No one way is the only way, as there are multiple ways in which an organization can reach its goal(s).
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Equifinality Example: This can be exemplified in the University of Central Florida’s attempt to garner more football game attendance. Initially the university promised large amounts of Link Loot. 1,000 Link Loot points if you come out to the UCF game! (The campaign sought to boost school spirit and morale. I mean, where else do you fully immerse yourself in the college experience if not at your university’s football games?) This attempt was successful, primarily amongst freshman, to whom the idea of Link Look seemed especially promising (it doesn’t fully hit you how broke you are until you’re sitting in your freshman community dorm eating a 38-cent cup of Ramen) because it promoted the chance at winning a scholarship. Game attendance did indeed rise, but then, UCF implemented a new tactic. UCF eventually ended the Link Loot process towards the end of 2012. This posed a problem, how would UCF keep attendance at a high? They university had to think of another way—take another route—to ensure game attendance stay peaked. Well they found one indeed. When UCF started winning its football games we all noticed how much the advertising and broadcasting of our commendable record all over campus shot up. It seemed everywhere you turned our undefeated record was thrown in your face. Naturally, people that lacked school spirit or any interest in showing up at the game only to watch UCF get stomped, picked up. Attendance reached an through the roof again because of UCF’s steady effort to get the word out that the University of Central Florida meant business on the field this year. Thus, we have two different means of garnering football game attendance that were able to work interchangeably. The variety used meet the system goal (high football game attendance) stemmed from two different changes which yielded the same result.
2. Multifinality: Multifinality is the system property that can best be epitomized in “the pursuit of multiple goals by means of a single activity” (Shah et al., 2002). Essentially, it is the notion that one act has the power to spawn multiple reactions. Multifinality is preferable to causes which produce one effect as multifinality is the equivalent of getting an exceptional bang for a regular buck, so to speak.
Multifinality Example: At Oakleaf High School when one class ends a bell sounds signaling that students are to proceed to their next class a minute before the tardy bell (which declares them late if they have not reached their next destination) sounds a “warning bell” sounds. This let’s students know that they have approximately 60 seconds to get to their next class. To say that the halls of Oakleaf High School remained, until the shrill of that warning bell blasted, packed, was an understatement. To reduce the socializing that took place in between classes (that which our three vice principals thought aided tardiness) our principal (Mr. Broski) did away with the warning bell. The first week of the new policy showed promising results in more regions than one: tardiness was at a low, there were less accidents on the stairs (since people were not flying down them, racing to class), and the hallways were finally navigable! In this way Oakleaf High School (the system) killed not two, but three birds with one stone! The stone, or goal in this case, being the pursuit of reducing socializing in between classes.
3. Negative Entropy: Negative entropy is the system property by which a system is able to preserve itself and additionally promote the system’s growth. The notion of negative entropy extensively harps on the significance of a system engaging in necessary exchanges–necessary in that these exchanges permit system survival and success– with its environment. In this way, negative entropy suggests that a system’s exhibits a definite dependence on a circulation of information/components shared between it and its environment.
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Negative Entropy Example: An example of multifinality can be found in the closing-down of Blockbusters nation-wide. Blockbuster was a booming movie and game rental business, before entertainment conveniences like Netflix arrived on the scene. Blockbuster remained closed to its environment in that by the time it considered incorporating methods liken to Netflix and OnDemand (online access to entertainment, mail services, etc.) it was too late and they had suffered irrecoverable blows to their revenue. Ultimately Blockbuster would go out of business, shutting down all of their corporate-owned stores. The CEO’s of Blockbuster primarily owe their failure to a stinted interaction with their environment. The failure to see and adjust to the world of entertainment around them, especially methods of renting/viewing entertainment from the convenience of your home, delineates how they ignored the very environment responsible for their system’s (Blockbuster’s) viability. An argument can definitely be made that the company might have otherwise avoided deterioration if they had maintained an ebb and flow of information between themselves and the progressing environment around them.
4. Requisite Variety: Requisite variety is another system property in which the imperativeness of the relationship between a system and its environment is addressed. Requisite variety is, in itself, self-explanatory. Put a simple “of” in the middle of requisite and variety and you end up with a concise explanation of the notion: requisite of variety. Meaning, the variety within a system (its inner workings, fundamentals, mechanics, etc.) imposes the requisition that the system’s environment be composed of a liken variety. Basically, the environment of a system should match the system’s innards itself, with regard to complication and diversity (for evolution and survival). Why is this necessary? A system that is ill-equipped to handle/adapt to the intricacies of its environment will be overrun with complication and falter.
Requisite Variety Example: The easiest way for me to apply this property is to think about instances in which I (the system) have felt overwhelmed and unable to adapt to the intricacies of the situation around me (the environment). A year ago I was my neighbor’s go-to babysitter. She had the kindest, most docile baby boy: Ethan. He was no problem to babysit; easy to entertain, not a picky-eater, and knocked right out after a bedtime story or two. My means of handling him were ingrained and perfected, and so when Barbara (my neighbor) asked if would mind looking after Mateo and Carlos (Ethan’s cousins) I told her that would be no problem. Unbeknownst to me, Mateo and Carlos were far from the little angel that Ethan was. Mateo was lactose intolerant and Carlos had ADHD which was in full-throttle come 8 o’clock. On top of all of this, Barbara requested I watch the boys at their (Mateo and Carlos’s) house because Ethan was spending the night there. I found myself unprepared to surmount the obstacles my environment had set in my path; the change in house layout made it impossible to find simple items, I couldn’t find anything (nutritious, anyway) to feed Mateo, Carlos had Ethan on the brink of tears because he was tired and agitated and Carlos kept messing with him, and all three of them seemed unresponsive to my suggestion that everybody go to bed. The end-result was me calling Barbara to admit defeat and ask that she come back home. Thus we have I, the system, was not unable to keep up with the diversity and complications that my environment imposed. This resulted in system failure, as requisite variety confirms it will.
J.Y. Shah, A. Fishbach, R. Friedman, W. Chun, and D. Sleeth-Keppler (2002), “A Theory of Goals Systems,” in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 34, M.P. Zanna, ed. New York: Academic Press, 331–78.
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