Mechanics is the branch of physics that deals with the behavior of physical bodies under the influence of forces and motion. While the principles and concepts of mechanics aren’t directly applicable to startups, they can be used metaphorically as mental models which help you think more precisely about the business world.
In this article, we will discuss three key concepts from mechanics that are useful as mental models for tech startup founders.
“Every body continues in its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.” – first law of mechanics, Principia, Isaac Newton
Inertia is the tendency of an object to resist a change in its state of rest or motion. This concept is crucial for startup founders because it can help them understand why it’s difficult to change the direction of a business once it’s set in motion.
An object that is moving in a particular direction will continue to do so unless there is a significant force to change its course. The more massive the object, the greater the force needed to change its course (or speed of movement).
The same applies to businesses. The bigger the business – the more money, interests, stakeholders, habits, and intertwined structures and procedures there are in the business, the harder it is to make any changes in general. That’s why big businesses tend to be extremely inflexible.
That’s not necessarily bad especially in good times, while the business is generating value. It’s hard for a single person to mess them up. At the same time, this is deadly in volatile environments where flexibility and adaptability are crucial. In tech, especially on the cutting edge of new technologies, flexibility is crucial.
That’s why small startups have a considerable advantage when it comes to innovation. They have much less inertia, which allows them to iterate and pivot much faster and much cheaper.
Friction is a force that resists motion between two surfaces in contact. In mechanical systems, friction can cause wear and tear, reduce efficiency, and even cause failure. That’s why mechanical systems often have methods to reduce friction – e.g. oiling the gears.
In the startup world, friction can take many forms, including market competition, regulatory hurdles, and technical difficulties.
Understanding the sources of friction in your startup can help you find an effective lubricant. For example, if you’re facing a lot of competition in your market, you might need to focus on developing a unique value proposition or finding a niche market. If you’re struggling with regulatory compliance, you might need to invest in legal expertise or explore alternative business models, etc.
Resonance is a physical concept that describes the tendency of a system to oscillate at a certain frequency when stimulated by an external force. It is a property that can be found in many different physical systems, from mechanical systems like bridges or musical instruments to electrical and electronic circuits.
The concept of resonance has been used metaphorically to describe the behavior of social systems and networks, where it refers to the phenomenon of ideas or behaviors spreading rapidly through a group of people.
For example, resonance can be useful for startup founders in the development of marketing and branding strategies. Just as a musical instrument can be designed to resonate at a certain frequency, a brand can be designed to resonate with a certain audience. By carefully crafting a brand message that speaks to the values and aspirations of their target market, founders can create a sense of resonance and connection that is critical for building a loyal customer base. This might involve developing a distinctive brand identity, crafting compelling marketing messages, or leveraging social media to create a sense of community and engagement around the brand.