The 10% Problem

The Pareto Principle, commonly known as the 80-20 rule, first figured into my own thinking several years before someone hipped me to the origins of a conception I was using. In truth, I had developed its bastard child, also a regulation of the vital few, I called–at the time–the 10% problem. The context was artist development in the music industry and the application was as a device to thoughtfully put reverse pressure on a musician’s tendency to spend time convincing naysayers. What I saw was artists spending more time trying to market to naysayers than they spent either pullng fence sitters in, or turning their believers into evangelists. Also, it seemed at the time what promoted this was their sense everybody was supposed to be a fan and that those who weren’t yet fans were thought to be ripe targets. But, the naysayers were hardly low hanging fruit and so I offered the suggestion that they should be ignored.

Several years later a colleague on the only management team I’ve ever been a member of hipped me to The Pareto Rule in the aftermath of my attempt to apply the 10% problem to the company’s marketing philosophy. In this instance, I was advocating more product testing because it seemed to me the company was wasting resources based in the assumption that 90% of the new products would always appeal to 100% of their customers.

Since then I’ve employed variations of the 80-20 (or 90-10) principle to all sorts of situations. My innovation is with respect to transformative learning: roughly, spend a figurative 10% of your time doing wild experiments, and doing so irrespective of so-called conventional wisdom. Here, in a sense, one pays attention to the outlying possibilities.

This has led me to reflect upon how the concept of the vital few may be consequential for perspectives about systems. This follows from a hypothesis about systems, (or about how in effect the world works,) that goes like this, what aspects of the system are hidden when it is presumed seeing the entire system in fact sees only 90%?
(90%, or, whatever is the presumptive portion said perspective views.

This comes back to the genesis of the 10% Problem because often the conventional wisdom, or habitual perspective, holds its conclusions about the system to be the inevitable product of seeing/understanding the system in the purportedly correct, (read into this also: normative, ‘as commonly understood,’) way. Whereas, my supposition holds that any incomplete perspective allows for, at least, inclusion of what’s absent, and, audaciously, allows for novelty–especially novel ways for viewing and analyzing the system at hand.

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