# Is the 80:20 rule recursive?

The 80:20 rule is a heuristic that people use to suggest that 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the effort (the values of the parameters may change, but the idea is that a relatively small share of effort gets a majority of the benefit). In one sense this is the idea of diminishing marginal returns, as the last 20% of the benefit requires 80% of the effort. This idea is related to the Pareto principle.

If this is true, the question arises: is the 80:20 rule recursive? Of the first 80% of benefit, does 80% of that only require 20% of the first 20% of effort? In other words, is there a 64:4 rule. Or worse, is there a 51.2: 0.8 rule. If so, then less than 1% of effort gets more than half the benefit.

That sounds like a really good deal to me.

This is a fabulous thought experiment. I wonder if I can use it with respect to house chores?

This sounds very interesting. The 80/20 rule, I guess, is trying to convey such information: some key steps/efforts/decisions make the difference. Technically and mathematically, it might be true that less than 1% of total efforts gets more than half the benefit. But in most cases, we really don't know which 1% effort really matters. We need to have the other 99% effort to pave the way for that. Transformation/spark of wisdom usually, if not always, comes from such accumulations like that. In another sense, this 1% can not exist without the other 99%.

This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on August 16, 2007 8:53 PM.

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