Is the 80/20 rule limiting our ambitions?

See this billboard?  I took the photo just outside the Edinburgh Apple Store - it is literally 5 steps away.  



Location. Location. Location. 

Location. Location. Location. 

Imagine you've broken your macbook, or iPad, or iPhone and you've popped into the Apple store to get it fixed, expecting the visit to cost you a fortune, and then you see this sign. Hmmm, you think, if I cross the road, take the escalator down 2 flights, then maybe I can save myself a sizeable chunk of cash. I bet a lot of people do just that. 

In terms of bang-for-their-advertising-buck, this location is probably the best investment the small company could make. That said, it is prime billboard real-estate and pretty expensive so they could've used their small budget to buy a dozen cheaper signs elsewhere, throughout the city.  But somehow they got clever and just purchased the one.  


This isn't just 80/20 thinking, it's 99/1 thinking. 

I'd love to know their thought process.  How did they make this decision?  It's counterintuitive.

I doubt they started out thinking, "let's just have one expensive sign". Most people don't think like that. We humans seem hard-wired to think "more is more" not "less can be more". I imagine, too, the advertising folk were very keen - incentivized, actually, in that they'd earn more money - to sell more signs, not less, so I doubt the idea came from them.  

Somehow, someone got creative and did the counterintuitive. Bravo. 


I've had a lot of conversations, lately, with programmers about how we need to "slicing and dice" our projects and then their scope. I always ask - just to be sure - if they're heard of the Pareto or 80/20 rule. I'm surprised to report that hardly any of them had. I guess I'm suffering from the curse of knowledge be used I'd assumed that, since 80/20 thinking was so fundamental to my work, it was just common knowledge and everyone knew it these days.

The bad news is they didn't. The good news is that it's such an obvious concept they picked it up and applied it very quickly. 


I've been using a billboard example to explain Pareto, asking "if you had a limited budget to advertise your new product, in your city, where would ou put the billboards?".  

It never occurred to me, until I saw this sign, that maybe 80/20thinking was limiting.

Maybe I should be asking, "if you could only afford 1 billboard, even if it was more expensive, where would you put it?"

clarke ching1 Comment