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Blog

Guess who invented the 80/20 rule?

Katie Morroni

In reviewing a new internal project, you know what we realized on this morning's call? 

Jesus invented the 80/20 rule.

(The 80/20 rule has several interpretations, but in this context, we mean that 80 percent of a story or outline should be deleted so that only the most important 20 percent remains. It's a technique we recommend that brings clarity to presentation decks, infographic designs, you name it.)

How did we get to this conclusion?

Rob brought up the fact that people can almost always handle 5 things: a list of 5 things, 5 fingers, 5 toes... 5 is the magic number, one that is easy to wrap our minds around. He then suggested that most people can name the first 5 of the Ten Commandments, but that the second half of the list usually gets muddled. 

I laughed, to think of Rob critiquing God and the original Top Ten list. "What, so God needed an editor? Or should have applied the 80/20 rule?"

Then it hit Rob: "Well, that's exactly what Jesus did."

It's true! Look for yourself. Here's one interpretation of the Ten Commandments:

1. I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.

2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.

4. Honor your father and your mother.

5. You shall not kill.

6. You shall not commit adultery.

7. You shall not steal.

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.

Later, when a scholar asked about the commandments, Jesus applied the 80/20 rule:

"'Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?'

He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.'"

Ten original commandments reduced to two. Friends, that IS precisely the 80/20 rule. 

Religious beliefs aside, Jesus is regarded as a great communicator -- and looking at this snapshot -- well, we're inclined to agree.