Entropy & business

The scientifically minded readers of this blog will be more familiar with the law of entropy than the business minded. The law of entropy defined from a physics viewpoint is heavy in maths and description. But from a social perspective the concept of entropy is generally used as a metaphor for chaos, disorder. They way I’d describe it is like this:

Unless we attend to stuff and maintain it, it will naturally fall apart.

We see this every day with old houses and cars. Unless they are attended to frequently, they just fall apart. What we don’t do is take the analogy as deep as we should into the businesses we run. They too require constant attention just to maintain the status quo. To grow, requires extra attention above ‘maintenance levels’. The problem with startups is that we are so focused on gaining initial traction and momentum that we forget about the upkeep. We are so focused on the next win, improvement or iteration, that we forget to check the stuff we’ve already done, built or created. And so it can start to fall apart without us really noticing. In some ways the most important innovation we can make is maintenance.

Lesson: If we don’t maintain what we already have, then the new stuff we introduce will end up being zero sum game.



  1. Adrian Daniels · January 14, 2011

    The repair that needs to be made ought to be planned into your business systems. If your business needs constant maintenance to keep functioning that suggests to me there are major problems with the underlying components.

    • Steve Sammartino · January 14, 2011

      Nice point Adrian.

    • lazypenny · January 14, 2011

      Maintenance will occur as any change is done to a system. I think there is no way to avoid this. The trick imo is to keep maintainability as high as possible.

      This is an interesting post and something that many people overlook when building software.

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