What About the Remaining 20% from the Other 80%?

I think a current buzz word is 80/20, which is also called the Pareto Principle.  From wikipedia: “80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”  Currently, I think it is mainly used for managerial and self-help audiences, viz. 4HWW.  That is: focus on the important stuff, and don’t sweat the details.  Examples of this include:

  • 20% of a written work covers 80% of the material (email, book, article, etc.).
  • 20% of an education class answers 80% of the questions.
  • and even: 20 volume percent of a restaurant salad contains 80% of the calories.

In reflection, I noted that the counterbalances of this rule are avoided.  I think when you apply the rule, you become quite a functionalist.  You function at a relative optimum, somewhere between a perfectionist and a busy-body.  Which means, when you apply the said rule, you eliminate becoming an extremist.  And, to further the argument, many field experts are extremists.

There’s an obvious argument.  One can become a field expert by learning optimally from following the 80/20 rule.  That is reading the 20% of the field background will render 80% of the knowledge, performing 20% of the experiments will determine 80% of the window of results, and so on. Nonetheless, I think the 80/20 rule focuses on efficiency, and efficiency has a downside.  Efficiency impedes exploration.

If you are still skeptical, imagine explaining the 80/20 rule to Kerouac or any other beatnik.  On the Road wouldn’t quite be the same without the characters’ passions and energies.

What’s best, efficiency or extremism?  That depends on the circumstances and/or goals.  And, are 20% of extermists 80% efficient?  Are 20% of efficient people 80% of the extremists?


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Runst said,

    The 80/20 rule kills creativity, and thus, art. Efficiency can be art; however, extreme efficiency in everything stifles all things that are not the norm.

    If there is some very unique efficiency used, there must be the said exploration period in order to perfect the most efficient method. No matter the method (trial and error, computation, etc.) there will be more energy used in coming up with a more perfect method than remaining with whatever is the known ‘most efficient’ method at the time.

    Thus, the extra energy put in to the ‘VERY most efficient method should at somepoint make up for itself, otherwise it’s not truly more efficient. In order to find out what that differece would be also takes energy. Doing things the know most effiecient way is the most conservatively efficeint method.

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