Are Your Earphones Tangled?


The Ignoble Awards started in 1980.  Past winners include:

Category: Physics Year: 2003:  ’An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces.’”  When finish laughing, the practical benefits are that positioning sheep for shearing means flipping them onto their backs and pulling them to the shearing areas.   The easier this is, the less tiring it is for the shearer. 

2015 BIOLOGY PRIZE Walking Like Dinosaurs: Chickens with Artificial Tails Provide Clues about Non-Avian Theropod Locomotion for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.

But we’re interested in The 2008 ignoble prize for physics, ‘Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String’.  This explains why you earphone cables get tangled and also helps us understand why business process tangles occur.   Tangles depend on string length, string flexibility, points of contact and external motion.   

The implications for business processes are as follows:

String length

The greater the number of steps in a process, the greater the probability that it will tangle

String flexibility

Too much flexibility in a business process can lead to unnecessary and unmanaged process variation. While processes should continually improve and be responsive to customer and business needs, all change must have an appropriate level of control.  To reduce non value adding management control and to allow faster adjustment of processes to meet threats or opportunities,  this control should be based on shared values and empowerment.

Points of contact

End-to-end business processes should flow smoothly through from customer demand to delivery.  Where a process is ‘chopped up’ by organisational silos, there will be an increased probability of tangles caused by poor handover to the next process stage.

External motion

Forces for motion come from STEEPLE e.g. social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal and ethical forces which will act as agitating forces. Be aware of current and emerging forces and ensure that you are ready to respond to them.  This includes internal organisational changes.