Entropy

Everything in the universe eventually moves from order to disorder.

Civilizations. Businesses. Marriages. Rock bands. That one drawer in your kitchen.

Eventually, given enough time and left untouched, they all creep toward chaos.

To fend this off we craft meticulous defenses. These defenses go by names such as “process” or “rules” or “social norms”.

But, without fail, the humans involved push up against these defenses and eventually something springs free of perfect order into anarchy.

Despite this being a very natural thing, entropy scares us. It angers and frustrates and blinds us to reason.

The first step to avoid this often debilitating frustration is to recognize what entropy looks like so you know when it is happening to something you care about.

For some it’s the day planned out meticulously that is now going to pieces or a three-year-old’s untidy room. For others it might be employee tardiness. For Shake Shack’s Danny Meyer, it’s a salt shaker.

For King of Pops it’s a chalkboard.

(Well, there are countless examples at King of Pops, but one that sticks out is a chalkboard).

Our co-owner, Nick, has a very specific spot where he likes to display the chalkboard menu for our window shop. He even went so far as to spray-paint a line on the sidewalk so that everyone would know exactly where to set it up.

Without fail, it moves from this spot throughout the day.

Sometimes it never even gets setup in the right spot to begin with. Other times wind blows it or a construction worker moves it slightly or someone takes it down entirely to pose for a picture on the giant mural behind it.

Once I saw a FedEx truck smash it into pieces after hopping the curb.

The fact that it is rarely exactly where he wants it to be drives Nick absolutely bananas.

It is an affront to him. He views it as equal parts laziness and outright refusal of an employee to do their job.

Of course, this is not always what is happening.

Employees are not robots, so it is natural for them to decide the board should be somewhere slightly different. Or to make a very human error of putting it slightly askew or facing the wrong way.

We ask our pop slingers to be creative and engaging and think for themselves how to best make awesome customer experiences. They do not have to say “my pleasure” every time a customer says “thank you”. They can describe flavors using their own words, not a script.

We believe this makes for a more genuine experience. It only makes sense that this also comes with a little chaos.

There are two ways to react to entropy:

  1. Let it frustrate and anger.
  2. Recognize it as a natural phenomenon.

To be clear, neither is an acceptance of subpar work. You can (and should) set the bar high and put those entropy defenses in place.

Just know that it is impossible to eliminate it entirely, so you might as well go with the less stressful option when facing it.

You are going to have to keep moving the chalkboard back either way.

Just ask Nick.