A business needs to not only lead by goal orientation but also keep entropy low by providing incentives, training, metrics for performance measurement, etc to keep it on track.
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Fifty is the number of guests allowed at a wedding this year, maybe a hundred people in the coming weeks but as the wedding season approaches, one reminisces the beautiful chaos that most weddings bring. What is a wedding without that! The organised disorder.
Last week on a trek, our guide shared interesting stories of weddings. His day job is teaching martial arts and serving in the central security team for big events. One such role was in the security cordon for Priyanka Chopra's wedding. Naturally, we got talking on the subject. He told us the elite kind of chaos that can happen, where the number of security staff is double the guests, where the security team and guests have to sign a contract for photos and deal with the hotchpotch of sealing mobile phones in pouches so that they can only take phone calls but no pictures. A-list chaos.
Weddings, big or small, have their own character of chaos. Some have disorders related to food, some for drinks, some have emotional sparks flying and some have just the photographer turning up too late.
As people come together, the most organised ones also go through the cycle of chaos and disorder. Movies and TV series pick up this chaotic disorder as the backdrop to narrate the main stories.
In Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, romance blossomed in a marriage setting, in Monsoon Wedding an old, childhood abuse came out in the narrative. Most marriage events are planned in detail, yet they lead to disorder. Sometimes, just an advertisement that tells a wedding story leads to the disorder—you know the Tanishq ad story.
The disorder is best explained by science. It is called entropy. Entropy in simple terms is the measure of disorder. More the disorder in a system, more the entropy.
Rudolf Clausius, a physicist and mathematician studied entropy. He studied the conversion of heat into work and that heat naturally flows from a higher temperature to a lower temperature.
To do the reverse, to make something hot, one has to use an external source of power. He also observed that not all heat is converted into energy to do the work, some of it is lost in the process, creating disorder. Entropy is the measure of this disorder. And, he has explained entropy in relation to energy. He explained that the energy in the universe remains constant, but the entropy of the universe tends to increase.
Thermodynamics is the study of heat and energy. The second law of thermodynamics is more profound because it describes what the universe can do. The second law is our guide to the disorder and inefficiency in the universe.
The second law of thermodynamics states that “as one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any isolated or closed system will always increase”.
It means the entropy of the universe is increasing, that is, more and more energy becomes unavailable for conversion into work.
Today, let us understand the most inevitable thing that is entropy, the disorder and its role in our lives and in our business.
Firstly, entropy is the default state
Entropy in our lives
Despite meticulous planning, wedding functions are made of visible disorders. Even relationships have a degree of entropy, the invisible ones. You don't put any energy in it, lead a quiet life without any complaint or excitement and one day you will find the relationship to be dead. A complete disorder in the relationship.
On the other hand, very strong relationships with an injury may end up broken if the injury is not worked upon. Clean rooms become dirty and if not cleaned become unlivable. Cars break, buildings fall, relationships wear out if the entropy or disorder increases beyond repair.
Disorder or entropy is a default state. To bring in order, one has to be attentive and put in the effort. It is like staying fit by eating right, exercising and sleeping well. Entropy is already there, the challenge is not to stop it but the challenge is to keep it under control and also sometimes use it to our advantage. Like in marriages, good disorders make memories.
Secondly, entropy tends to increase when the system is closed.
Entropy in our workplaces
Imagine hiring a team of 20 painters for the wedding to paint your house. You give them the house, cans of paint and leave them alone for a couple of months without any manager. When you return, you will find some have left the job, some are still there but have not done the work and the job is incomplete and messy. Remember the law that says, the entropy (read disorder) tends to increase when the system is isolated.
Just as energy tends to move towards a more disordered state, in work philosophy the same thing happens. In a meeting room, if you put a team of people for discussions, there will be enough time spent after heated discussions and disorder will rise, if there is a lack of clarity on how to direct the discussion towards a goal. A sense of direction and goal orientation by the leader becomes a necessity to keep the entropy low during the discussions, read in an isolated situation.
Likewise, a business needs to not only lead by goal orientation but also keep entropy low by providing incentives, training, metrics for performance measurement, etc to keep the business on track. If the workplace and its people remain isolated, the entropy will increase.Any deviation from leading and training means dullness in performance and lack of revenue. That is what we have seen in the case of work from home situations when businesses were grappling to adjust to the new environment. Without the necessary effort, businesses reach maximum entropy levels that leave them bankrupt.
Thirdly, the higher the entropy in a system, the more energy you will need to be efficient.
Entropy in our business
Businesses tend to thrive when they work in an environment where energy is efficiently used. Imagine the impact of noise when you draw your coffee mug to the floor in a room with few people against the sound it makes when you drop on a busy railway station. It goes unnoticed.
So, if the business is operating in a space where there is a huge disorder, the energy spent will go unnoticed, like the missing sound on a railway station.
The law of thermodynamics suggests that the energy is limited. To be efficient, it is pertinent for the business to find space where disorder is less. Innovative business offerings do well as they stand out in spaces of lower entropy.
Let me bring your attention to the Tanishq ad. Based on a marriage story between two religions, the advertisement set some people to troll, which added more disorder to the cultural entropy. But actually, that heat created by trolls, transformed into work and created more press coverage and social media interest for the ad. It is unlikely that the ad would have received such coverage and interest otherwise. What was a bad disorder in culture, turned out to be good energy for the business.
Not all disorders are bad. Entropy can be used to one’s advantage. The rules are simple:
a) Remember the entropy is the default state, keep it under control.
b) Entropy tends to increase when the system is closed or insulated. Intervene with energy like new learning.
c) Higher the entropy in a system, the more the energy needed to be efficient. Since energy is a limited resource, innovative thinking helps businesses stand out.
Successful entrepreneurs keep entropy in check. They value that entropy is the default state, hence they work with attention. They know that disorder will increase in a closed system, so they intervene through processes and people training. Most of all, they are aware of their energy levels, so they create innovations in their products and services to succeed.(Vishakha Singh, author of a forward-thinking course SHIFT, is a business strategist & a design thinking practitioner. She writes at www.habitsforthinking.in, offering insights into the ever-changing business environment.)