This Simple Law of Physics Will Change Your Business

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“The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature.” —Arthur Eddington

Have you ever heard of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Unless you were an engineering major probably not, but it’s a fundamental law of the universe which dramatically impacts your business every day.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of a closed system will never decrease. Entropy is the natural tendency of things to lose order. 

Here's the important thing about entropy: it always increases over time, which means that left to its own devices, life will always become less structured, everything will decay, and disorder always increases.

The article Entropy: Why Life Always Seems to Get More Complicated, by James Clear, gives a great explanation of entropy and how it impacts our personal and business lives.

As James points out, “You can fight back against the pull of entropy. You can repair equipment. You can clean a messy office. You can organize individuals into a cohesive team.  But because the universe naturally slides toward disorder, you must expend energy to create stability, structure, and simplicity. Successful relationships require care and attention. Successful houses require cleaning and maintenance. Successful teams require communication and collaboration. Without effort, things will decay.

This insight—that disorder will increase over time and that we must exert effort to create order has dramatic implications to your business.

Think of all the systems you’ve created in your business and then ask yourself what structure you’ve put in place to counteract the pull of entropy? We wouldn’t think twice about the need for continuous improvement and maintenance for the machines in our companies, and yet our systems related to people and planning often limp along without an eye toward continuous improvement or even a yearly refresh.  

I see this in the way many organizations approach their business planning. Teams get together for an off-site retreat and a plan gets created that everyone feels good about. And then entropy takes over—the plan ‘sits on a shelf,’ and isn’t reviewed on a regular basis. There’s not consistent, on-going energy expended towards keeping the plan current, relevant and responsive to the day to day disorder that affects it.

So, consider reviewing your planning system like a scientist, and ask yourself how you’re fighting the forces of entropy. How often are you checking back in with your team to solicit their input? What about adjusting the key performance indicators to respond to changing variables in the marketplace. Are you getting the team back together on a consistent basis to review and refresh the plan at least monthly or at a minimum quarterly?

If there isn’t a system in place to keep your plans fresh, then they’re already out of date and sliding into a state of being irrelevant.