Derek de Solla Price, a British physicist, historian of science, and information scientist, discovered something about his peers in academia. He noticed that there were always a handful of people who dominated the publications within a subject.  Price recognized a pattern which was later named after him.

What is Price’s Law?

50% of the work is done by the square root of the total number of people who participate in the work.

Only a handful of people produce half of the results in any given field or company.

You may have observed this phenomena throughout your experiences in life.   You are working on a team, and there are the superstars who do most of the work or seem to produce most of the outcomes and then there is everyone else.

In my former life I was an Inside salesperson for a major technology solution provider.   Every single day, they would post the sales numbers for every Account Manager for the previous day as well as the entire month.    We had visibility into the individual contributions in relationship to the overall team goal.

Without fail, there would always seem to be 2-3 people contributing well over half of the total revenue number.

What I was witnessing without realizing it was Price’s Law in action.

It is observable in wealth distribution, album and book sales and just about everything else in life when it comes to production.

Jordan Peterson, Clinical Psychologist speaks about it here.

“As your company grows, incompetence grows exponentially and competence grows linearly.”

Example A.  In a company of 10, 3 are doing half of the work or producing half of the results.

Example B.  In a company of 100,000, 100 are doing half of the work or producing half of the results.

It applies to every single realm where there is a difference in creative production.”

So what does this mean?

As a leader, manager or business owner it is important to understand this law.   It is important that you take care of all of your employee’s but it is equally important to make sure you don’t take for granted your top producers and top performers.

If 3 (out of a 10 person company)of your top performers leave and they are contributing 50% of the results, you will feel the pain of that loss undoubtedly.    No they aren’t easily replaceable.

In the workforce here is the cold hard truth.   Those 3 employee’s know their worth and are most likely being recruited and or/actively seeking opportunities outside.    The 7 other employees are the ones who will stay, won’t look outside for opportunities because they recognize that they aren’t top producers and more than likely aren’t being actively recruited from the outside.

Take care of all of your employee’s.   Don’t take for granted or think your top producers are replaceable.

Price’s major scientific contributions include: (Source Wikipedia)

  • Price’s square root law or Price’s law pertains to the relationship between the literature on a subject and the number of authors in the subject area, stating that half of the publications come from the square root of all contributors.[4] Thus, if 100 papers are written by 25 authors, five authors will have contributed 50 papers. Price’s law is related to Lotka’s law.[5]