Price's Law in Action

Price's Law is a harsh pattern to see in action. One of the many ideas that my parents tried to impress onto my siblings and I was that a person who worked hard could accomplish just about anything they set their mind to. The "just about" part has certainly proven to be an understatement over the years but, generally speaking, they were right. When a person -- or group of people -- set their sights on an objective and dedicate the requisite amount of time and effort, worthwhile goals can be met. However, anyone who has worked in groups will agree that the accomplished workload is rarely distributed evenly across each team member. Price's Law outlines this concept with mathematical simplicity:

The square root of the number of people in a domain do 50% of the work.

So in a group of 10 people, it can be safe to say that 3 people will do 50% of the work and seven will do the other half. This can scale and remain relatively accurate, too. So, in an organisation with 100 people, fewer than a dozen employees will do 50% of the work while the other 90 perform the remaining 50%. There are always exceptions to the rule but, more often than not, this pattern can be observed around the world in a myriad of situations where there is a creative output.

A person can belong to multiple groups and have different levels of involvement in the various endeavours at any given time. So, with this in mind, I started thinking about the different teams that I'm a part of at the day job and where I might find myself in the equation. It's no secret that I will bully myself to get things done, particularly when the task involves a high degree of complexity. However, I will also be the first to admit that I do not put 100% of myself into every project. Some will receive 70%. Others might receive far more than 100%.

Of the 9 teams I belong to, there are two that would not notice if I ceased to exist. My contributions to these teams have tapered off as the social structures of the groups solidified around one or two key members. While I continue to avail myself to these groups in the event they need information or something done quickly, I cannot take credit for any fruits of the labour. The other seven projects, however, have a great deal of my attention; primarily because I own the creative direction. Colleagues have ideas, goals, objectives, and ambitions, but it's me to turns all of that into something actionable that people can see and interact with. It's all about vested interest.

This raises a question, though: Is Price's Law primarily dependent on ego or passion?

The two are not mutually exclusive, though one may be better suited for problem-solving than the other.