A Refresher on 7 Laws and Theories Worth Remembering

You would have heard of these laws and theories from someone sometime. So, this is going to be a quick refresher

1. Pareto’s Law (also known as the 80/20 rule):

The 80/20 Rule means that in anything a few (20 percent) are vital and many(80 percent) are trivial.

In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth. Pareto’s Law can be a very effective tool to help you manage effectively. In Pareto’s case it meant 20 percent of the people owned 80 percent of the wealth. In Juran’s initial work he identified 20 percent of the defects causing 80 percent of the problems. Project Managers know that 20 percent of the work (the first 10 percent and the last 10 percent) consume 80 percent of your time and resources. You can apply the 80/20 Rule to almost anything, from the science of management to the physical world.

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2. Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

This means that if you give yourself a week to complete a two hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting so as to fill that week. It may not even fill the extra time with more work, but just stress and tension about having to get it done. By assigning the right amount of time to a task, we gain back more time and the task will reduce in complexity to its natural state.

Read more here.

3. Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s law states that if anything that can possibly go wrong, does.

Whether you believe in this law or not, just remembering it will make you take some extra care (which is a good thing)

For the cynical folks out there, there is a corollary to Murphy’s law which states that – “if anything cannot possibly go wrong, it will”

You can read more here.

4. The Power Law Curve

Power law is a special kind of mathematical relationship between two quantities. When the frequency of an event varies as a power of some attribute of that event (e.g. its size), the frequency is said to follow a power law.

For instance, the number of cities having a certain population size is found to vary as a power of the size of the population, and hence follows a power law. There is evidence that the distributions of a wide variety of physical, biological, and man-made phenomena follow a power law, including the sizes of earthquakes, craters on the moon and of solar flares, the foraging pattern of various species, the sizes of activity patterns of neuronal populations, the frequencies of words in most languages, frequencies of family names, the sizes of power outages and wars, and many other quantities. It also underlies the “80/20 rule” or Pareto distribution governing the distribution of income or wealth within a population.

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5. Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study.

Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.

Read more here.

6. Just world hypothesis

Just world hypothesis is the idea that people believe one will get what one deserves.

In most cases, just world hypothesis is what gets people going – the hope that things are just all right and the world is just in general. It is what makes people trust each other even when they don’t know each other very well.

Sometimes this can also backfire. This belief can be so strong that people will even rationalize an inexplicable injustice by naming things the victim might have done to deserve it. Also known as blaming the victim, the just-world fallacy, and the just-world effect.

Read more here.

7. Self-attribution fallacy

Self-attribution fallacy is to credit yourself with outcomes for which you weren’t responsible.

This is probably one of the biggest reasons why most people can’t repeat their success the second time.


8. The Peter Principle

In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

If you apply the Pareto’s Law to Peter’s Principle, this must be true 80% of the time. The 20% of the time people buck this principle, we see the making of great leaders.

Read more here.

Have a great weekend.

Photo Courtesy: Eric E. Johnson on Flickr