The Law of the Few

The Law of the Few

The ‘Law of the Few’ is a concept that’s been around since the late 19th century.  This idea was discovered by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80 per cent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 per cent of the population. Eventually, the wealth distribution model was soon extended into a number of different fields by Joseph M. Juran.

In the 1940s, Juran realized that Pareto’s principal could be applied to a number of situations—first he realized that 20 per cent of the pea pods in his garden contained 80 per cent of the peas, then, as a business-management consultant, he noticed that the ‘Law of Few’ could be applied to vocations, economics, software development and many other areas.

Most importantly, Juran believed that when it comes to a work model, a minority of people did the majority of the work in fact 20 per cent of the people do 80 per cent of the work, he broke it into several areas for example:

  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of the time you spend
  • 80% of your sales come from 20% of your products
  • 80% of your sales are made by 20% of your sales staff

So what’s going on with the other 80 per cent of people? Well they are considered the useful, and sometimes the trivial many.

As for the one in five people who do a majority of work, Malcolm Gladwell states that ‘the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.’ Hopefully you are one of them, their characteristics (discussed by Gladwell) are listed below:

  1. Connectors
    Connectors are the people who ‘link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.’ They are ‘a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [… for] making friends and acquaintances’.] He characterizes these individuals as having social networks of over one hundred people. The social success of Connectors is directly related to ‘their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.’
  2. Mavens
    Mavens are ‘information specialists’, or ‘people we rely upon to connect us with new information.’ They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.  ‘A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own.’ According to Gladwell, Mavens start ‘word-of-mouth epidemics’due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate, ‘Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know.’
  3. Salesmen
    Salesmen are ‘persuaders’, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them. Gladwell cites several studies about the persuasive implications of non-verbal cues, including a headphone nod study (conducted by Gary Wells of the University of Alberta and Richard Petty of the University of Missouri) and William Condon’s cultural microrhythms study.

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