Entrepreneurial Entropy: How To Lead When Your Business Leans Toward Chaos
I’ve always had rather eclectic tastes. Whether it’s art, philosophy, theology, or science, I try to find tangible lessons I can apply in both life and business.
Physics in particular has always been of great interest to me. There is a certain solace one can find in thinking about the invisible forces that govern the world around us.
Just when you think you understand a concept, you can dig deeper and unlock layer upon layer of complexity.
It always amazes me how translatable the world of physics can be across seemingly unrelated subjects, such as business and entrepreneurship.
A tendency for chaos
I was recently reading about the concept of entropy, which is essentially a measure of disorder. This, taken alone, doesn’t seem all that interesting.
However, things change when you remember that the second law of thermodynamics states that all closed systems tend to maximize entropy.
In essence, this means that the Universe has a tendency for chaos.
The idea that the universe has a natural inclination towards disorder seems fitting in the context of entrepreneurship. It seems like, as a leader, I’m constantly battling a tendency for things to descend into disorder and chaos.
I know that as an entrepreneur, I often have a vision in my mind of how a particular business scenario should unfold.
I find myself realizing this vision, and encountering serious frustration when things inevitably go sideways.
Putting things back in order requires tremendous amounts of energy and focus. All in all, it makes for an exhausting and demoralizing process.
However, if you take your lead from physics and realize that the Universe and your business alike will naturally lean towards disorder, you can equip yourself to respond more effectively.
I’ve often felt that the root of most stress can be found at the intersection of expectations and reality.
Good entrepreneurs are able to close the gap between these and thus manage the natural chaotic state of things more effectively.
Not with a bang but a whimper
To get back to entropy for a moment, there is an important rule that has major implications. The higher the entropy, the less energy there is for useful work in a system.
So, if you couple this again with the second law of thermodynamics (systems tend to maximize entropy), you reach a startling conclusion: eventually, the Universe will be a pretty boring place.
This concept is known as the “heat death of the universe”, and it postulates that eventually entropy will be so high that there is no energy available in the system.
The Universe will reach equilibrium, and nothing will be able to happen, literally.
Again, this is a concept that has perfect parallels to entrepreneurship. Left unchecked, entropy will grow in any organization.
Things will lean towards chaos, and soon there will be no energy available to support life. That’s why most businesses end not with a bang, but a whimper
The takeaway for entrepreneurs is simple: left alone, your business will increase in chaos and eventually be left without the ability to get anything done.
Breaking free of the laws of physics
This is where, thankfully, business diverges from physics. While the laws of physics appear set in stone, the creative potential of mankind can is not.
How does a leader fight back against the tendency towards chaos and the eventual “heat death” of their business? By finding the strength to be a source of perpetual energy for their team.
It’s up to the leadership of an organization to sense increases in entropy and the reduction of energy and respond accordingly. This requires a tremendous amount of drive, ambition, and passion.
It means that leaders must overcome their own personal feelings, fears, and frustrations in the face of constant struggle. They must rise above their own concerns and be a source of motivation for the team.
In business, attitudes are contagious. When a leader lets things get to him or her, it can cause an epidemic in the office.
Frustration spreads, entropy increases, and soon you’re facing the heat death of the universe. Good leaders recognize this and stop it before it gets out of control.
Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from looking at physics. Much like the Universe, businesses lean towards chaos. If left unchecked, this can lead to an end that is more of a whimper than a bang.
Fortunately, the human mind can transcend the clean mechanics of physics. Leaders can get out of their own way serve as a source of energy that will draw the team together and overcome any challenge.