Vilfredo Pareto Rides Again

By John Hertz:  Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian who among other things became famous for calling attention to what some of us call the 80-20 Rule.

80% of the unpacking takes 20% of the time.  20% of the people do 80% of the work.

I’m not prepared to say this is built into the Universe, or why it should be.  But it keeps showing up.

I’ve offered it as advice.  I offer it now.

Put 80% of your resources into strengthening what’s going right.  20% into curing what’s going wrong.

Not the other way round.

How tempting to put 80% into what’s going wrong.  Because it’s WRONG.

But, I suggest, you’re actually living on what’s going right.

If you put 80% of your resources into what’s going wrong you may starve before you get it cured.

When I tell this to people they sometimes seem to think I’m saying they should ignore what’s wrong.

Of course not.  Look at it.  Study it.

It may require different thinking or a different perspective.  It may be hard or embarrassing – or it may prove downright silly.  When I’ve solved problems, my own or others’ or both, the end has sometimes been in laughter.

But stay on target.

Nor do I mean to minimize how wrong something can be, or how urgent.  You may indeed have to act on it fast.  It may indeed be so wrong it changes everything.

I’m talking in a more general way about proportion.

Of course this was brought to mind by particular events.  I could have mentioned them, but I didn’t.

And of course you might disagree with this 80-20 advice, or think it’s inapplicable, or like that.  So?  If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.

Maybe it only applies 80% of the time.  I don’t know that either.

I’d love to tell you I always followed this advice myself.  But when I haven’t, and later come to my senses, there it was, waiting.