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.”



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.


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.


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.


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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