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22.08.2010

The Power of Power Laws

We’re shifting from a Gaussian world to a Paretian world, with profound implications for business. Johann Gauss was a famous mathematician in the 18th century and Vilfredo Pareto was a great economist who lived across the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries. So, what possible relevance do these dead white men have for business today?

Gauss contributed the Gaussian distribution, also known as the normal distribution, as a way to characterize the probability of events – most of us know it as the familiar bell curve with a significant hump in the middle and two relatively modest tails on either side of the hump. Pareto, on the other hand, inspired the Pareto, or power law, probability distribution. Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail offers a great contemporary example of the Pareto probability distribution – a few extreme events or “blockbusters” on the left hand side of the curve and a very long tail of much less popular events on the right hand side of the curve. The Pareto distribution has also been popularized as the “80/20” rule.

Kilde: Edge Perspectives with John Hagel

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