Order Muppets, Chaos Muppets, and Entrepreneurial Optimization

Everything is always always optimizing for something. That is, getting as close to the maximum or minimum for at least one input or output, and often for many. Usually, but not always, this means minimizing inputs and maximizing outputs. Plants, animals, ecosystems, organizations survive by optimizing scarce resources. Even inanimate objects and raw materials optimize for certain factors according to physical processes and laws such as gravity and entropy. That said, humans are among the best optimizers on earth, which is why we’re the biggest influence on the planet today, why our epoch is called the Anthropocene. However, all people optimize differently from each other.

If we use the fun lens of sorting people into two general categories, Order Muppets and Chaos Muppets, we can look at what each category tends to optimize for. Order Muppets (think Kermit, Bert, and Sam the Eagle) optimize for too many factors. This helps them maintain control and keep the trains running on time, but it quashes creativity, serendipity, and risk-taking. Chaos Muppets (think Fozzie Bear, Ernie, Fozzie, and Animal) optimize for too few factors or miss optimizing for important factors. This allows them freedom and creativity, but often prevents them from shipping anything big or getting anything done.

In order to be successful, entrepreneurs must not only balance our inner Order Muppet and Chaos Muppet, but we must also optimize for different factors than people who have an employee mindset. We must maximize our tolerance for ambiguity. We must maximize our learning across many disciplines, while minimizing our overreliance on any given skill set for too long. We must maximize outputs (profits, throughput, sales leads per day, revenue per employee, etc.), given the often extremely limited inputs or resources (cash, employees, hours, equipment, knowledge, network, etc.) that we currently have. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

What are you optimizing for, and why? What do your role models, mentors, and heroes optimize for, and why? What could you optimize for that, if you did, would change everything?