Biomimetic file 200: Entropy

Why maintaining order is key to business integrity

smoke_texture2788Picture source: creative commons. *In physical terms, entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system. ..In other words entropy measures the lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder…

Highlight:”Researchers from the Universidad de Guanajuato have developed new types of fuel cells partly inspired from processes found in species…One of the key findings shows the best flow field to minimize the entropy* production…”

Insight: Entropy is omnipresent in nature, it is a general observation rule that natural systems tend to stabilize overtime at the lowest energy levels. For instance plants would grow where they get the most exposure to sunlight, birds would adopt flight patterns that are most efficient. As a matter of fact, deviation from order is a path to species extinctions…

In business, disorder (high entropy) is often synonymous with poor performance. Once a business operations become in a state of disorder, chaotic outcomes can quickly escalate leading the business in a state of crisis.

A personal case I came across was the visit of a Japanese car parts manufacturing plant in Cambodia, I was amazed by the level of order in the manufacturing chains, everything seemed to be perfectly in place and following very precise procedures. On the other hand, not long after I visited a steel processing plant in Indonesia and was struck by the level of disorder in all aspects of the company. After a bit of background study on these two companies it turned out that the first had seen record breaking profits while the second was in financial difficulties. while they may be other factors involved, order in operations (and overall management) was certainly a key contributor to the success of the first company …

The below indicators are key to assessing the state of disorder and should act as red flags that a company is in a “high entropy state”:

  • Escalating systems failure rates;
  • Poor safety records;
  • high employees turnover.

Do you operate a business that involves complex chains and processes? If so do not overlook the need to keep operations in order as it will reflect positively on outputs and safety records…There are various external certification that can facilitate (but not replace good governance) the maintenance of order such as certain ISO standards (e.g. 9001, quality control) which in today’s competitive market are no longer an option but a must to remain trustworthy, attractive and competitive…

More information here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species or natural systems on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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