Breaking the Chains of Chaos

Breaking the Chains of Chaos by Dr. Robert Gerwig

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Left alone, things fall apart…. In layman’s terms, this phenomenon is known as chaos or randomness. In more scientific terms, it is known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics (the science of energy). Don’t fall asleep just yet!!!

Each college major seems to have a “weed out” course – a class that “separates the men from the boys” (and “the women from the girls”???). At the Colorado School of Mines that course was “pchem” (physical chemistry) for engineering majors. Was it hard? I don’t know ’cause I transferred the semester before I had to take pchem. … At Clemson, the engineering “weed out” course was thermodynamics (NOT to be confused, by the way, with dianetics, scientology and L. Ron Hubbard). I couldn’t understand why the average engineering student at Clemson took “thermo” 2.4 times. After all, there were ONLY 3 laws. Seemed easy enough, yet on the first day of class, a show of hands indicated that only 4 of us (out of 22 students) were thermo “first-timers.” The rest were thermo “weeds” and future business majors (sorry, couldn’t resist!). …

While I don’t remember much from that class, I do remember the 2nd law. The Second Law of Thermodynamics can basically be summarized by: “Left along, things fall apart.” They tend toward randomness. Chaos. Some refer to this law as the Law of Increased Entropy. … OK, so what. Well, it’s pretty interesting (actually, it’s AMAZING!!!) and plays a major role in our physical, emotional, and even spiritual lives.

If you put lumber, nails, and bricks in a big pile, leave it for 200 years and come back, what will you find? A house? Obviously not. … If you build a house, leave it alone (no maintenance. no energy. no investment.) and come back in 200 years, what will you find? A pile of lumber, nails, and bricks. Or maybe compost. … When left alone things don’t build up, things fall apart.

Leave relationships alone and what happens over time? Do they get stronger? No. They weaken. They tend toward chaos. Don’t talk to your spouse, buy them presents, touch them or do anything for them and what will happen (PS – don’t really try this!)? What will happen is the relationship will weaken, break apart, become more chaotic. Die.

Organizations respond (or don’t) in the same way. To maintain status quo. To improve. To last. Requires an investment of energy. You, as a leader, need to set direction, create vision, communicate, encourage, coach, reinforce, correct, develop plans, execute, etc. You cannot expect the organization to improve (or even maintain its course) without these investments. Granted, there are times when the needed investment may be greater than others (e.g. a turnaround situation), but an investment is always required (even in a world-class organization).

Relationships require energy (conversation, empathy, listening, spending time together, doing things for each other, etc.). Organizations also require energy (strategic plans, clear goals, recognition, capital, etc.). If you chose NOT to make this investment, you’ll be heading toward CHAOS. RANDOMNESS.

Laziness and apathy lead to CHAOS because there’s no investment of energy into the system/relationship. Discipline and drive lead to ORDER because there’s an investment of energy in the system/relationship.

… That summer, I had an amazing professor. He may have been the best I ever had in any course, at any university. He was organized, energetic, and clear (sounds like a good leader!). He made an investment in the class. He made an investment in me. I did the homework. I studied. I read. I listened in class. I exempted the final. I received an A in Thermodynamics (o yeah!!!). I avoided CHAOS and chose ORDER by making an investment. I put energy into the system.

Chaos or Order. In organizations. In personal relationships. The choice is YOURS.

How are YOU bringing ORDER to the world of CHAOS that surrounds you?


I’d love to hear your thoughts. The floor is ALWAYS open.

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