A Green Field is Always Better or Is It…

Starting with a clean slate is always such a rewarding idea much like if you would imagine a painter standing in front of a virgin canvas which in its emptiness offers a world of possibilities which are only limited by the mind.  However if we were to stand back and look at an existing work with an eye to adding to it, changing by melding it into something it’s not. We would quickly find ourselves faced with a far more difficult problem then our friend gazing into the emptiness of their opportunistic canvas.

The same holds true in business and product life cycles as new and improved typically means its heading to being cobbled up as “entropy” will creep into all things we do just as friction robs from us the glory of perpetual motion.  Herein computer code is a good example of this as let’s talk Windows ™ for a minute, as those old enough will remember we started with 3.1 and moved up (mainly via the underlying DOS component) till our friends in Redmond dumped the code and started a new with a “green” field version named Windows 95 ™ as a restart if you will.  Well since this is Microsoft, we will call it a reboot in their honor, however then they went on [further] to upgrade the product line to Windows NT ™, XP ™, Vista ™ and so on.

Most of the releases in this mix have been “green field” restarts and the lesson here is just that, they took the “lessons learned” and moved the intellectual property forward from a “Brown” field code base to a “Green” field “design”.  Thus leaving behind the “noise” and caring forward the “signal” which is an important fact in building success.  Yes, yes, for you purist out there its understood that some “noise” will always be carried forward again just as our friend friction is ever present while so is “noise”, however the ratios here will be so low (in reference to the signal) it’s not worth concerning ourselves over in this discussions.

This is also how upstarts (company wise) topple giants because as the giant grows so does the “entropy” within its systems.  This in turn creates an “Achilles Heel” if you will as it leave the “giants” vulnerable to the “David’s” of the world who are saddled with less “entropy”*.  This is most likely one of the reasons for Microsoft ™ longevity as its abandonment of “Brown” fields for “Green”, however if we look at things taxonomically.  Their efforts in a “order” are running to the end of the “class” therefore while in the scope of managing the “order” they have been effective in minimizing the entropy in their products (which are part of the “order“).  However the market for their products themselves (or “class” if you will) have not fared as well.

Again looking back at Windows ™ (an “order“) has come close to running its course as the “class” of bootable Operating Systems which it is part of is coming under fire from embedded systems.  Therefore Microsoft ™ is experiencing a cumulative affect of entropy at the “class” level.  This affect in turn is what leads to “product” obsolescence as system wide entropy builds to a level where a system wide “Green” field is then created at the next level up in the taxonomic scale.  The lesson here is the circle of product life is driven by natural selection and a cycle starts with an end and end with a beginning.

*Note: entropy in a general case can mean many things as in the auto’s for example if we take an old school company like General Motors.  One of the entropy induced aspects which they [GM] carried that a new company would not was “retirement obligations”. Therefore as new or younger companies came into the market, General Motors “entropy to market” ratio would rise in reference to the market therefore impeding the competitiveness of the company within the market itself.



About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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