Applying the 80/20 Principle for Personal Success at Work

By Richard Koch in Research on December 26th, 2006 / 7 Comments

The 80/20 Individual: How to Build on the 20% of What You do BestThe 80/20 Individual is the second of the ‘80/20 trilogy’. The book shows how to apply the 80/20 principle for personal success at work. The Director magazine commented: ‘Koch writes with inspirational verve and assurance drawing on personal experience of building businesses – A useful motivational tool for appraising and leveraging talent in the organization, his book yields valuable lessons that any business can apply and will be of particular interest to the would-be entrepreneur.’

What is an ‘80/20 individual’?
An 80/20 individual is someone who creates wealth or wellbeing, achieving results out of all proportion to expectations. An successful person who has made their mark on the world, without using pre-existing organizational power, is an 80/20 individual, whether they realize it or not. Anyone can become an 80/20 individual by using the 80/20 principle and the ‘nine essentials’ detailed in the book.

In the book you’ll meet many 80/20 individuals that I’ve come across. Olivo Boscariol was a night watchman who became fascinated by medieval floor tiles in a small-town French museum. He created a business exporting replica tiles to America and talks of ’saving’ previously unemployable people. My main satisfaction, he says, is helping the lowest of the unemployed set themselves and their families on their feet again.

By contrast, Andrew Black, whose grandfather was a prominent anti-gambling crusader, invented the idea of a betting exchange, which uses the internet to enable individuals to bet with each other, without the need for expensive bookmakers.

You’ll also meet Bjorn-Ingvar, who started as an English professor in Sweden. The church to which he belonged had a tiny business publishing prayer books, and asked Bjorn-Ingvar to supervise it in his own time. This he did, but such was Bjorn-Invar’s ability to find wholesome secular books to publish, that he created one of Sweden’s largest publishers.

What Are the Nine Essentials of 80/20 Success at Work?

Use Your Most Creative 20 percent
Shakespeare wrote ‘to thine own self be true.’ But which self should you be true to?

The self that spends time and sweat getting nowhere? The self that engages in destructive or self-destructive actions? The self that follows the crowd? The self that achieves nothing out of the ordinary?

No. The self to which we must be true is our really distinctive self, our unique self, our imaginative, positive and creative self, the 20 percent or less of ourselves that contributes more than 80 percent of our impact and happiness.

Anyone who achieves in life is not well rounded. Successful people have one powerful and distinctive strength. I call it the ‘20 percent spike’. For Bjorn Ingvar it was publishing flair. For Olivo Boscariol, love of medieval floor tiles and the ability to get unemployed people to love them too. For Andrew Black, the imagination to create a betting exchange.

You’ll learn how to find your own ‘80/20 spike’.

Spawn and Mutate Great Ideas
Every new business must start with an idea. But some ideas are hugely better than others. The dynamic part of life comprises the amazingly productive, small minority of forces that produce nearly all the results. In business, I call these great ideas ‘business genes’. Your chances of success are dramatically higher if:

  • The idea is a variant of one that has already proved itself successful
  • The variant you pursue is the survivor of a serious process of business selection, having proved itself superior to the other variants
  • The idea is unique – nobody else is pursuing it
  • The idea has superior economics – lower costs or higher prices
  • The idea fits your 20 percent spike

Find the Vital Few Profit Forces
What will create the most wealth for the least effort and capital?

Which powerful forces can be on my side? For each type of force (product, staff, customer, etc.) which of them produces 80 percent of results with 20 percent of resource?

Enlist Einstein
According to Marshall McLuhan, ‘For tribal man space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same role.’ Albert Einstein showed that time was really a fourth dimension of reality, related to the three dimensions of space.

The implication for business? We shouldn’t think of what we do for customers as separate from the time we take to do it. We shouldn’t think of products on the one hand, and time on the other.

Time is part of what we add or subtract. I show how to compress the time taken to deliver to customers, because this is often the way to do something that pleases customers more at a lower cost.

Hire Great Individuals
Typically, 20 percent of any peer group will achieve 80 percent of the results.

This is not because the productive people are much more talented. Talent is useless if it doesn’t create wealth or wellbeing. The secret of productive people lies in the methods and ideas they use. Some of these methods and ideas are light years ahead of others in delivering results.

Productive people have a knack for identifying and using the methods that lead so easily to wealth and wellbeing. One answer is to hire these people. But a better answer is to find the best methods and train everyone in how to use them.

Use Your Current Company
It’s often sensible to use your current company as a ‘dry run’ or first stage of a venture you might want to launch. Learn while somebody else is paying the bills and suffering the mistakes.

You can also propose a deal or hybrid solution to your existing company if you see an opportunity they are not planning to exploit. A hybrid solution:

  • Is proposed by an individual or small team and not by the corporate hierarchy
  • Involves the transfer of real ownership, or a substantial slice of the profits, to 80/20 individuals
  • Leaves the new team free to run the business how they want.
  • Adds profit to the old firm
  • Starts you on the road to riches quickly and easily, with less risk

Exploit Other Firms
There is huge over-capacity in most branches of industry, particularly in low-return activities such as manufacturing. This is great if you are setting up a new venture:

  • Be ultra-selective in the activities you undertake – stick to what is super-simple and super-profitable
  • Use other firms to do most of the work
  • Provide the missing link to unlock huge hidden value

Secure Capital
Ernest Rutherford, the boffin who split the atom, once said ‘it’s true we don’t have much money, so what we have to do is think.’ The secret to using capital is to think very carefully about why and where you need it, and to minimize the amount you need. Use capital only where you can multiply it.

Make Zigzag Progress
Successful variations in nature live longer and reproduce more. Most new ventures rest on the laurels and don’t vary the formula that has brought success. Sooner or later the old formula will not work so well. The second stage of growth – where most wealth is created e- requires variation while the old formula is still working perfectly. It is success, not failure, that most urgently requires change. Follow the path of natural selection – if it ain’t broke, do fix it!

If you follow the Nine Essentials, success at work need not be a mystery. You can accomplish more by doing less. You can become a creative 80/20 individual.

Many thanks to Richard Koch for providing this exclusive summary.

For more information please visit: The 80/20 Principle Website

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7 Responses to “Applying the 80/20 Principle for Personal Success at Work”

  1. Leo Foster Says:

    To quote from this article:

    “No. The self to which we must be true is our really distinctive self, our unique self, our imaginative, positive and creative self, the 20 percent or less of ourselves that contributes more than 80 percent of our impact and happiness.” HOW TRUE.

    This is a really great article. I am so surprised I do not see more people
    making comments on its usefulness. I am making a copy of it and will keep it for constant review.

    Well, let me just be thankful and grateful to Richard for giving me the opportunity to read this post.

    Leo F.

  2. Rodney Says:

    I read this book over a week ago and it’s been informing my thinking ever since.

    The whole idea that only a small portion of what we do gives us most of the results we want has so many applications that it’s just mind boggling.

    I’m still learning how to use this principle every day and I hope more people learn to use it (except my competitors).

  3. olaotan odunuga Says:

    Great work of writing .Please keep it up.Do not stop impacting lives.I have really learnt a whole lot from your websites and ebook.

  4. K.SAMUEL Says:

    HI, Great kudous for this great effort in improving human lives- i am really charged when i read through this great work !

  5. Felix.S Says:

    I had purchased the 80/20 Principle. The book is fantastic and I will be trying out the 80/20 rule in my daily life and at work!

  6. carol Says:

    How do I get myself marketed above others to get weddings?I am a new marriage celebrant, and there are so many of us? I believe I can do it, but that’s where is sits, BELIEVE…!!

  7. Wyatt Says:

    I am currently doing a study on the effectiveness and efficiency of the 80/20 Principle. It’s amazing how powerful the concept is when put in practice. It is my hope that more people use the principle in their spiritual, mental, emotional, physical and financial lives. I’m absolutely grateful that this book exists. I pray that many more people will jump on the bandwagon.

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