Will the law of limited variety stand the test of time and changing environments?

Organizations are reflective of the external environments that they exist in as they are greatly influenced by these settings.  In particular, they “reflect the complexity of their environments.  So, for example, organizations in more complex environments map the complexity of the environment into their own structures” (Scott and Davis, 370).  The more numerous the sources of complexity, the more complex an organization will be in general.  This argument is brought up in Organizations and Organizing and commonly contested by open system theorists.

The law of limited variety is in accord with this stance, stating that “a system will exhibit no more variety than the variety to which it has been exposed in its environment” (Scott and Davis, 97).  The source of system diversity and variety is considered to be the environment as organizations and environments are interdependent, with organizations relying on their environments for the infusion and cultivation of variety.

The law of limited variety is demonstrated by most large, influential organizations operating in cities.  These are the organizations that are the most diverse, in all aspects and meanings of the word.  On the other hand, the opposite is also true in that rural locations are not useful for inflicting variety into an organization.  As Scott and Davis say in Organizations and Organizing, “great universities do not arise in deserts or other sparsely inhabited areas” (Scott and Davis, 97).  Varied, diverse environments offer better opportunities to think of and develop wide-ranging ideas.  The law of limited variety therefore makes sense in that organizations are only as varied as the environment is conducive to and fosters the conceiving of.

As the environment continues to change with time, these changes should be reflected by corresponding increases or decreases in the diversification of organizations according to the law of limited variety.  Or perhaps this law will be disproved?  After all, is Bucknell, located in rural Central Pennsylvania not a great university?  As the area becomes more diverse, it will be interesting to note whether this parallels changes in the variety at Bucknell (in many facets of the university).

Note: This is my Conceptography Essay answer to question six.


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