A lesson from the Second Law of Thermodynamics you can use in your small business



“Same old, same old.”

Have you said that, or used similar words, when you’ve been asked what you have been doing lately?

We tend to be creatures of habit. By itself, that’s not bad. If we had to consciously think about every step we took each day, everything we had to do, we would go mad. However, there is a law in physics that I believe applies to human systems, and a small business certainly falls into this category.

It’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or the Law of Entropy. Some synonyms for entropy are decline, degradation, and breaking down. The law says that the total entropy of an isolated system always increases over time, or remains constant in ideal cases. This means that the rate of decline of any system left alone will increase over time or at best, its rate of decline will stay the same.

The important part of this law is the word “isolated.” In physics, an isolated system isn’t receiving any energy from an outside source. For example, the batteries in our electronic devices entropy (even when they are not in use) so we must periodically replace them or recharge them, i.e. provide new energy from an outside source.

Keep your business energized

In the same way, we need to add energy to our businesses or they will gradually decline. Let me give you an example that we have all probably seen at one time or another. It’s when the owner of a business gets it up and running and thinks that he or she can walk away and let it run by itself. Invariably, this small business owner gets a rude awakening at some point, realizing that the business is about to tank.

The challenge for the small business owner is to provide those infusions of energy that keep the business healthy, growing, and moving forward. One way to approach this is to key on a word that is somewhat the opposite of isolated, and that word is “new.” Almost anytime you add something new to your business, you’re pumping in a kind of energy. Let me start the list of strategies and items that could be new to your business:

  • A new hire.
  • A new product.
  • A new territory.
  • A new building or office.
  • A new machine.
  • New positions/challenges for current team members.

This list is far from complete. I have no doubt that you could think of many new initiatives or new items that would give your business an injection of fresh energy. As I’m writing this, the New Year is right around the corner. (Hey, there’s another “new” you can leverage in your business.) However, you should be thinking about adding elements of “newness” to your business all year long.

Finally, don’t just take my word for the importance of battling entropy. Here’s another business expert who has something to say on the subject:

“I think you should always bear in mind that entropy is not on your side.” – Elon Musk