The Two Thirds Rule

Think about this when you read about the news coverage of the bailout of the financial sector, the incoming administration, or even just your employers plans for the new year…

There was a professor my senior year in college who made a profound impact on the way I think. He would show how mathematical analyses could be fundamentally flawed, how inadequately tested theories would be put forth and generally accepted, and how improperly managed data could undermine the rigor of an analysis.

My favorite nugget was what I call “The Two-Thirds Rule”, which goes:

“Take a population to study. Divide it by whatever means or metric you wish into three equal groups: average, above average and below average. Now look at what you’ve got.

Two thirds of that population is mediocre at best…”

Now try not to think about the people controlling the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. Or about any government’s emergency response program after a natural disaster. Or about combating a pandemic. Or fixing the financial system.

Could we establish a plan or program to protect ourselves? Sure– but two thirds of the people on the team that develops the plan are mediocre at best…

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