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Sample Chapter CHAPTER FIVEORGANIZATIONS AS COMMUNICATION SYSTEMSMultiple Choice Questions
- Which of the following influenced the development of systems theory/systems thinking in organizations?
- Industrial psychology
- Social protectionism
- Theory of Relativity
- Social Darwinism
Answer: C (p. 203)
- Understanding global climate change from a systems perspective could entail:
- Reducing climate change to its atmospheric effects: greenhouse gases and the depletion of the ozone layer.
- Collecting evidence of climate change over time and understanding how changes are related to one another.
- Pinpointing clear causes and effects between consumer waste and rising temperatures.
- Doing closed laboratory studies on the impacts of rising shorelines and making clear predictions about future outcomes.
Answer: B (p. 206)
- Lamar thinks that “30 Rock” and old episodes of “Saturday Night Live” are hilarious, but has met Tina Fey and a couple of the writers in person and didn’t think they were very funny. From a systems perspective, we might best explain this discrepancy through the principal of:
Answer: A (p. 207)
- Von Bertalanffy’s view of a “mechanistic world view” is that:
- It has brought us great innovations.
- It has been catastrophic for the human race.
- It has taken away our reverence of the natural world.
- All of the above.
Answer: D (p. 204)
- Before she started teaching critical organizational communication, Jesica taught middle school. Now, she jokes that middle schools are the perfect examples of entropy in systems. Which of the following statements could illustrate her point?
- Losing middle schoolers’ attention for a few moments in class is like giving them Diet Coke and puppies – order falls apart.
- Without loud bells and hall monitors, passing periods quickly get out of control.
- Early-teenage hormones and learning self-control make for social interactions that quickly turn volatile.
- All of the above.
Answer: D (pp. 210-211)
- The dot-com bust of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s and the financial meltdown of 2008 are both examples of which process gone “awry” in a system?
- Deviation-counteracting feedback that prevented growth in both the internet and financial sectors so that both remained at homeostasis.
- Deviation-counteracting feedback that shrunk both the internet and financial sectors until they were too small, and therefore collapsed.
- Deviation-amplifying feedback that created growth in both the internet and financial sectors so that both remained at homeostasis.
- Deviation-amplifying feedback that created growth in both the internet and financial sectors until they were too big, and therefore collapsed.
Answer: D (p. 211-212)
- Many cliques function as relatively closed groups: members do not interact much with other people, and members are encouraged to have similar thoughts. This can best be described as:
Answer: B (p. 208)
- Alyssa recently opened a small business selling hand-made necklaces. She’s a marketing whiz, and her brand was immediately picked up by a few popular blogs. She worked feverishly to produce a big inventory to keep up with the sales. After the first six months, her sales evened out, so she reduced her inventory. Now she knows how much inventory to keep to match her sales and her budget. Which of the following processes from systems theory explains this sequence?
- Positive feedback – negative feedback – homeostasis
- Input – throughput – output
- Enactment – selection – retention
- All of the above.
Answer: A (p. 212)
- Two presidential candidates decided to take different approaches to “getting out the vote.” One political campaign went the social media route, Tweeting and Facebooking and mobilizing voters online. The other political campaign went the face-to-face route, knocking on doors and holding rallies. One election day, both campaigns were surprised to see that each had mobilized a great number of voters – voter turnout was unprecedented for both candidates. This best illustrates:
Answer: C (p. 216)
- Which of the following is NOT a relevant inference of the statement “one cannot not communicate”?
- All behavior is communicative – things other than speech communicate messages.
- Intent is necessary for communication – senders must intend to communicate in order for communication to count.
- Communication is relational and contextual; meaning and sense-making is shaped by system in which it occurs.
- Streams of everyday behavior are punctuated into meaningful units that we can interpret.
Answer: B (p. 219)
- When Karl Weick shifts from using the noun “organization” to the verb “organizing,” he illustrates the ways in which:
- People don’t work in organizations, they engage in processes of organizing.
- Other theories talk about “organization” as if they’re static and figured out.
- A lot of our time in organizations is spent figuring out how to organize our experiences.
- All of the above.
Answer: D (p. 222)
- Last summer, Devonte, a high school teacher, was an adult counselor at a national high school leadership camp. His friends run the camp (and he attended as a high school student), but he was unfamiliar with how the camp had morphed in the last ten years. When he arrived at camp, he found out that the camp directors expected him to train college students to be junior counselors. Though he had not prepared to teach a workshop, he pulled upon all of his team-building experiences, some experience working for a political campaign, his recent experiencing teaching drama, and the book The Alchemist, which he read on the plane. He delivered a meaningful training session. Now, he proudly tells his colleagues at home about his pedagogy. Which of Weick’s concepts best help us to understand Devonte’s process?
- Retrospective sense-making
Answer: A (p. 223)
- Which best characterizes how Weick explains the relationship between rules and equivocality?
- Rules are the cause of equivocality.
- Rules are best used in highly equivocal contexts, because no precedent exists.
- Rules are often used in less equivocal contexts, because a precedent exists.
- Rules bring back memories of equivocality.
Answer: C (p. 228)
- Retrospective sense-making is a helpful tool because it reminds us that:
- Organizations act and then think.
- Organizations are less rational than we imagine.
- Organizing is relatively messy.
- All of the above.
Answer: D (p. 231)
- Sia is pursuing her passion to help formerly-incarcerated women successfully rebuild their lives outside of prison. She and several community partners started a nonprofit organization that works to organize the social, material, legal, occupational, and psychological resources that might best support women’s success after incarceration. The thing is, though, Sia is frustrated because everything just seems so Her team is awesome and they have a great idea, but she needs encouragement and also some practical ways to make sense of how her this often-improvised “mess” is actually an organization. Which of the following systems theorists might best offer her insight to her processes of organizing?
- Ludwig von Bertalanffy
- Irving Janis
- Karl Weick
- Niklas Luhmann
Answer: C (p. 221-232)
- What is the centerpiece of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of organizing?
- Operative closure
Answer: C (p. 234)
- In the United States, there are many similarly named protestant Christian church denominations. To an outsider, one Presbyterian church might look just like another Presbyterian church, but this is not the case to members of these various groups. The Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) and the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA), for instance, stem from a similar theology, but enact their theology in quite distinct political, ideological, and communicative ways in the context of their churches. Which aspect(s) of Luhmann’s theory could we use to talk about this strange-seeming phenomenon?
- Organizations communicatively construct their own specific environments.
- Organizations’ distinctions from other organizations gives them unity and meaning.
- The purpose of social systems is their preservation of difference from other systems.
- All of the above.
Answer: D (p. 235)
- Which of the following is a critique of systems theory?
- Systems theory does not provide us a clear way to study organizations empirically.
- Systems theory does not look at our organizational experiences holistically.
- Systems theory complicates communication and organizing too much.
- Systems theory places too much emphasis on power and its influence in organizing.
Answer: A (p. 240)
- For the first time, systems theory provides us with a complex communication model that allows us to:
- Focus on members’ meaning and sense-making processes.
- Find the best way for managers to communicate to employees.
- Use communication to motivate workers in organizations.
- Understand rules and types of authority that enable us to produce rules.
Answer: A (p. 218)
- Systems theory marks:
- A failure of psychological approaches to communication.
- A need to address organizational structure and collective behavior in organizing.
- A desire to understand social processes as whole and interdependent.
- All of the above.
Answer: D (p. 217) True/False Questions –
- Reducing work in organizations into their smallest known components is a key feature – and goal – of systems theory.
Answer: (F – p. 203)
- Because open systems are more open to the environment than closed systems, they are more likely to experience entropy than closed systems.
Answer: (F – p. 210)
- According to systems theory, a change in a sub-system of university (a classroom) creates a change in the supra-system of the university (the university as a whole).
Answer: (T – p. 214)
- When your world is relatively predictable, you are probably in a high equivocality context.
Answer: (F – p. 228)
- According to Luhmann, systems need structure only to the extent that ongoing communication produces norms and expectations.
Answer: (T – p. 236)
- One of the most important tasks of a system is determining what belongs in the system and what belongs outside of the system.
Answer: (T – p. 218)
- Systems theory is a natural perspective for empirical researchers to apply to scientific studies, because it helps them reduce the complicated nature of organizing.
Answer: (F – p. 240)
- According to systems theory, corporations, families, non-profits, gangs, and sororities, prisons, schools, and knitting circles all have a lot in common.
Answer: (T – p. 218).
- Intent is not necessary for communication to communicate.
Answer:(T – p. 219)
- Systems theory is another attempt to control, predict, and conquer nature.
Answer: (F – p. 202) Fill in the Blank
- _________________ is the term that describes the possibility that the same inputs can produce various different outputs.
Answer: (multifinality – p. 216)
- _________________ is the term that describes what happens when various approaches all ultimately yield the same result.
Answer: (equafinality – p. 216)
- With systems theory, we see a shift in the dominant _______________ for talking about the natural and social world.
Answer: (metaphor – p. 202)
- Groupthink is a negative effect of ___________________.
Answer: (holism – p. 208)
- In a system, feedback that corrects a deviation from the norm (error-activated) is called ______________.
Answer: (negative feedback – p. 211)
- Systems theory shifts our attention from “independent parts” to “_________________ parts”. Answer: (interdependent – p. 217)
- Weick says that “organizing is like jazz” because organizing, like jazz, requires both a ___________ and ________________.
Answer: (structure and improvisation – p. 229)
- The phrase Niklas Luhmann uses to describe organizations that “make themselves is _________________.
Answer: (autopoiesis – p. 233)
- According to Luhmann’s theory, biological systems reproduce themselves on the basis of life. Social systems, on the other hand, reproduce themselves on the basis of ____________________. Answer: (communication – p. 234)
- Luhmann’s systems only exist insofar as they ______________; when they cannot produce new communication, they cease to exist.
Answer: (communicate – p. 236)