The Pareto Principle

Columbia Falls, MT

This may come across as a rant. It’s not meant to be… It’s just something I’ve been pondering recently.

First, an explanation of the Pareto Principle also known as the 80/20 Rule. (From Forbes magazine)

“The Pareto Principle is very simple, yet very important. It is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who, in 1906, found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

“What was most important about Pareto’s finding was that this 80/20 distribution occurs extremely frequently. For example, in general, 20% of your customers represent 80% of your sales. And 20% of your time produces 80% of your results.”

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If you stop and think about it, the Pareto Principle applies to many things in life. We spend 80% of our friendship time on 20% of our friends. During an election year, your mail is probably 80% junk and 20% important. Most of us spend 20% of our cooking time preparing 80% of our meals assuming that you have one fancy meal every other week or so.

So here’s what got me thinking about the Pareto Principle again. We are staying at a park that has rules posted everywhere. Each of those rules are posted multiple times. And those rules are posted all in the colors that are normally reserved for DANGER alerts: yellow, black, and red. It’s an assault on one’s eyes because even innocuous information comes across as URGENT.

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The problem is that you only need to tell or show 80% of people the rule once and they get it. The other 20% will never remember the rule no matter how many times you tell them.

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So 80% are annoyed while 20% are absolutely clueless.

Think about it… How many times have you seen a “Slippery When Wet or Icy” sign and thought, “Gee, I didn’t realize that the floor might be slick when it’s wet…” or “I wonder if all ice is slippery or maybe if just this ice is…”? Probably not that often.

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But then some twenty-percenter comes along and busts his butt without even realizing that the sign was there let alone thinking about reading it…

So, in reality, due to the Pareto Principle 80% of us spend 20% of our time reading stuff for the 20% who have an 80% need to read it.

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