The 80/20 Differential And Its Inevitable Top 10 List
Most of the time I'm pretty serious as a writer. But every now and then,
maybe 20% of the time I veer off that highway and into whatever this is.
I don’t profess to know what the original
definition of the 80/20 Rule was. Maybe there really isn’t one and it’s
just one of those things that came about as a number of people in
different spheres saw the same thing happening around them and
quantified it in this particular way.
My First 80/20 Rule Encounter
As a young wharthog in advertising
agencyland, the first time I heard it was from my group head, Terry
Hill, who earnestly explained to me that 80% of everything I would do in
advertising will be crap and 20% of it will be good. I asked him why
and he just replied that, in his opinion, it was the way of the world:
that it all breaks down that way, no matter what dimension you choose to
use as a measure.
This was one of those tiny gems of (arguable) wisdom that stuck with me over the years. And I have to tell you, thinking in terms of 80/20 has really helped me understand, well just about everything I need to understand to keep from feeling hopeless, or otherwise downtrodden and oppressed by the vicissitudes of the crazy business of communications, which has more that its share of peaks and troughs.
Learning to look at the world and all its little microcosms in this way is very clarifying. It's also a way to keep from being in a constant state of pissed-offness, because most of the stuff you see around you just doesn't make sense.
My Personal Top 10 Dimensions Of The 80/20 Rule
1. In any given geographical location,
80% of the people inhabiting that location will be pretty much out to lunch. 20% will have their acts together. Hopefully the 80% aren’t running things.
2. In any given working environment, 80% of everybody will be under-performing or deadwood. 20% will be making the company money. Hope they are being properly compensated for that.
3. On any given pro sports team 20% of the players are responsible for 80% of the team’s success. And they are being generously compensated for that.
4. On any given stretch of highway in rush hour, 80% of the drivers will be distracted from too much booze or drugs, eating, texting, talking on the phone or trying to carry on a multichannel conversation with everybody else in the car. If it’s family, this number is even higher. I'm amazed there are not more traffic accidents than there are. This is probably due to a whole lot of dumb luck.
5. In any given supermarket, 20% of the people will not have enough money to pay for the groceries they bought and ask the cashier to remove one or more items. Part of the other 80% are standing in line behind this person wondering why they are so shortsighted.
6. In sales, an 80% rejection rate is common. The successful salesperson is the one who can suck it up and carry on regardless.
7. In China, 80% of everything made there will only last 20% as long as anything made anywhere else, except Apple products.
8. In any given population, 80% of the people are suffering, to a greater or lesser extent from diet, smoking, drug or alcohol related diseases and conditions. This relates directly to #1.
9. In social media, 80% of all active participants would suffer physical withdrawal if their computers were taken away from them. 20% would just go outside and play.
10. On the Internet, 80% of everything that is transmitted via text, graphic, audio or video is indulgent crap, bullshit or propaganda that 80% of the people will consume. Maybe even 80% of this post, although I certainly hope not.
There are many many more examples of how the 80/20 Rule can be interpreted and measured. These are just the ones that sprang to mind while I was writing this. I'm certain you will have a number of examples in your own world where this is a true indicator of the way things are for you.
If all this sounds a little cynical to you, then I admire the fact that you are a glass half full person. I myself am a glass 20% full person myself. So we're really not that far off. In my opinion, the difference is simply how we view reality. I guess you could call me an uber realist.
Please feel free to comment with your 80/20 Rule insights. If I get enough I’ll post another list. Because you can't have too many of these things, now can you?
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