Concept Entropy

I’ve witnessed the entropy of many a fine concept in my time.

For those of you who have forgotten your schoolboy physics a quick reminder on what entropy is – and there are a lot of fine definitions, but I want to focus on a simple illustration. Entropy is what happen to your kettle after you have turned it off – it cools down until it is at room temperature. All of the heat dissipates until the temperature of the kettle is no different to everything else around it – well almost.

Within the IT arena we come up with all sorts of good ideas, but I’ve seen many of these ideas go through the same entropy cycle.

  • The cycle starts with an idea.
  • The idea warms up things around it as people subscribe to the idea and see it’s relevance.
  • The idea gets developed into a concept and a way of thinking beyond the first idea.
  • Thought leaders start to understand how the concept could be applied within their context – whether that’s a business, an organisation, or from a personal viewpoint. These thought leaders make the best use of the concept and it makes a real difference to their context.

At this point the system is still being heated up – the concept is still cooking, but entropy is about to kick in.

  • The concept starts to enter the mainstream.
  • Consultants start to see the concept as a way of generating more work by helping organisations to apply the concept to their environment.
  • Product companies see a whole new revenue stream from delivering products targeted at delivering the concept.
  • Because it is something tangible the products become synonymous with the concept in the minds of those that use the product.
  • The products enter the mainstream and become the concept and consulting review from the concept starts to decline.
  • At this point the consultants start to look for the next concept to jump onto leaving the old concept to the product providers.
  • The concept entropy is complete.

SOA is the last years concept, Cloud is this years. SOA has just finished the cycle, Cloud is on it’s way through the products phase.

I said at the beginning that a kettle cools down until it is just like everything else around it – well almost – and it’s that well almost that is important. The extra heat that the concept has generated doesn’t die – it’s just been dissipated throughout the other systems. The products that get delivered to enable a concept still live on making a difference to the way that organisations work. The products aren’t delivering the concept, but the residue of the concept that lives in the products is making a difference to systems around them.

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