Inertia is “the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion.” In other words,

[Inertia] is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.

If an object is in movment, inertia is the force that prevents it from stopping. Moreover, inertia involves conserving energy by making everything more efficient, but it relies on a system. In physics where inertia is related to gravity.

And every successful company aims to achieve inertia. So the larger they get and continue moving forwards as efficiently as possible. Everything they do is geared towards achieving more efficiency than the competition by making their process better and cheaper. For a small company, on the other hand, everything is difficult. Everything must be done for the first time. The difference between the large and small companies is, therefore, seen when the underlying system changes. Inertia is hard to break. It requires more energy to stop and change than it is to continue down the same path.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. The large company fights to keep the system which is, more often than not, futile.

The large company folds and the small company wins. It’s too expensive and requires too much energy for the big company to stop inertia and start over.

Your inertia

What’s interesting to me is that people aim to achieve inertia as well. No one wants to live in a constant state of uncertainty and innefficiency. We look to go on with our daily lives as easily and effortlessly as possible. For example, you can buy a car to get from point A to B faster, but even on a smaller scale, you aim to achieve inertia; usually around work. You develop your morning routine — workout and breakfast, then shower, hop in the car and go. Or you schedule your workday — get a coffee, chat with coworkers, check and answer emails; then lunch, work on projects and go home.

And you slowly get set in your ways.

The great thing is that you get better at your job. It becomes easier, you’re more efficient, you become an expert…you could do it with your eyes closed. The bad thing, much like the big company, is that your ways are dependent on a stable system. And system change — always.

The challenge

It’s not that inertia is bad, quite the opposite. What’s needed is balance. Enough inertia to be efficient at the small things and enough openness to be able to start over on the important stuff. Some important stuff includes, your products and services, your business model and how your job is done.

What’s your take?

(Photo credit: Dan Kamminga)