Entropy Gradient Reversal

Some of you may remember Chris Locke’s great blog of that name from back in the early days of blogging. You could feel the force of his writing pushing against the tendency for things to revert to previous states or to fall apart.

Entropy, in its sense of a return to equilibrium, is a powerful force in organisations. Whenever you make a change, unless you continue to inject energy into the system, things are likely to return to “normal” pretty soon. So many of my clients put in social platforms at work, have a communications push to start if off, see an influx of users, then it all slows down, often to a halt. The novelty wears off. People return to their old ways of doing things, and the naysayers get to say “I told you it would never work”.

You have to keep injecting energy, you have to keep caring, you have to pick yourself up and try again, and again. The sort of change in how we work that we are on the brink of is worth the effort but unless we keep injecting energy we will stay teetering on that brink.

3 thoughts on “Entropy Gradient Reversal

  1. Entropy doesn’t return to a state of equilibrium though; it moves to a lower energy state. If you put in a solution that is easier than the alternatives, it will stick. Too many ‘solutions’ fall because no-one ever identified the problem they were trying to solve. People put in a ‘system’ that requires extra energy, instead of making something easier or replacing an old way of doing things.

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    1. I knew my analogy wouldn’t hold water! I agree that people only change if those changes make things easier or better but they don’t always see that in the first instance when wedded to the familiar.

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  2. I think it works well for any structured information resource. Energy needs to be put in or it will deteriorate. That energy will only be expended by people who value the accuracy of the information or when the entropy is costing more than fixing it.

    But business process change is very expensive. It is either disruptive or requires duplication of effort, sometimes both. The changes are often instigated by people at the top who see advantages but resisted by the people at the bottom who are more aware of the dangers of disrupting the lower level processes, knowing that the decision makers aren’t aware of the details, are unwilling to listen to their concerns and don’t understand the impact of the change. I believe the doers are usually change-averse for good reason.

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