Written by John LaRose, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

I was introduced to the term “negative entropy” by a human resource development consultant who works with Celink. As she explained, entropy is defined as the degradation of matter and energy. The idea is that everything moves toward its inevitable end. Organizations are no exception to that rule. The best way to summarize entropy is “nothing lasts forever.”

So how does an organization keep itself from extinction? The answer, as she explained, is found in the practice of “negative entropy.” When an organization regularly infuses itself with fresh ideas and thinking, through invigorated or reinvigorated associates, it is practicing negative entropy. It is ensuring that as people move on, whether through natural movement, attrition, sickness or death, new people and new energy are being brought in to take their place. Proactive recruitment and succession planning counteract entropy by infusing the organization with new life.

The reverse mortgage industry will prevent its own extinction by employing this practice as well. We must recruit the best and the brightest into our ranks. With this new talent will come fresh ideas, thinking and insights—new life. Reverse mortgages have been described as complex loan products, and they are. Einstein is credited with saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Our industry challenges have to be viewed by new eyes without past experience or prejudices, and by integrating

the vast experience and knowledge of our current industry professionals with the energy and enthusiasm of emerging professionals, we protect our industry’s future.

Organizational leadership compels us to recruit energetic, enthusiastic associates—those ready, willing and able to support our mission and fulfill our vision. It encourages us to craft a succession plan for each organizational leader, one that ensures that as people move on (as people will do), replacements have been groomed and the requirements for each position are clearly defined.

I’m at official retirement age. There are moments when I’m mentally and physically ready to claim that prize. (Should I mention that I’m writing this from Florida?) There are other days, however, when I’ve never felt more invigorated or motivated to keep moving our company and our industry to higher ground and expand our presence. On those days, retirement is out of the question. But I am also a realist. I know that the best gift to Celink will be to spend the remaining days of my work life grooming my successor, encouraging every one of our associates to stay on mission, and expanding our organizational and industry vision for the future.

This imperative to plan for the future hit home in an incredibly personal way when my mom passed away on February 1. Parents are a personal example of creating a succession plan and my mom and dad were exemplary leaders and teachers. Dad had an exceptional work ethic (up at 5:30 a.m. and home at 7:30 p.m.) and a great faith that made him a risk-taker. He loved spending time with Mom and their grandchildren. Mom loved unconditionally, treated friends like family and loved to get a little crazy with us growing up, regularly admonishing us, “Don’t tell Dad!” My father predeceased Mom and I knew he looked to me to care for her in his absence. I was his successor. Until her death last month, I visited her almost monthly in Arizona or Tennessee, and it was never a burden. Mom and Dad taught by example the importance of taking time and caring for family.

In an insightful article from the January issue of The Reverse Review (“Embracing Change in 2013”),

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Steve McClellan wrote, “Jack Welch once said, ‘Change before you have to.’ I think that’s wise advice. We cannot simply sit around waiting for policymakers to make changes that will safeguard our industry—we need to be proactive.”

The best safeguard for the future of the reverse mortgage product and industry is the proactive practice of negative entropy in new hiring, reinvigorating current associates and creating succession plans for those who will assume future leadership. As our industry and product continue to evolve, let’s commit to evolve with them.