How Price’s Law Can Positively Impact Your Work

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Who are the superstar performers at your job?

Do a handful of people come to mind who consistently make the most sales, design the best new products, or always seem to have the winning ideas?

This person might be you if you’re the one who is adding substantial value to the team, but the larger your company is, the smaller the chance this is the case.

Often, when I’m working on a team, I find myself taking over most of the responsibilities. Now, this isn’t always to say that my teammates aren’t helpful, I just tend to work more efficiently than others and feel a sense of motivation when I’m presented with a problem to solve.

Whether you’ve been the one to get the most results on a team or you seem to always be congratulating the same top performers at work, you can better understand this phenomenon by understanding Price’s Law.

In this article, I will define Price’s Law and then show you how you can use this information in your professional life to become an invaluable part of a team.

Let’s start by looking at the origin and definition of Price’s Law.

What is Price’s Law?

Derek Price was a physicist and scientist who recognized that there were always a handful of his colleagues who domineered in a professional environment. Price’s law was born from this discovery, which more specifically says that half of the work that a group does is completed by the square root of the number of people in the group. There is an uneven distribution of productivity in the workplace–especially when it comes to jobs that require creativity.

Half of the work that a group does is completed by the square root of the number of people in the group.

So, if 16 people work for one company, 50% of the work is done by 4 of those people. In a company of 200, about 14 people would be the ones doing half of the work, while the other 186 people do the other half. This isn’t meant to discount the majority, it is simply to point out that the square root of the total number of people in a group are invaluable members because of the results they’re able to achieve.

To gain a better understanding of this principle, let’s look at how it can be applied to your everyday life. I’m sure at some point you’ve played Monopoly or watched a group of others play this game. While everyone starts with the same amount of money, once you start playing, a few people start winning a little and a few people start losing.

Once you win a bit, the probability that you will continue to win goes up, and those who are losing becoming increasingly vulnerable to losing more. Once you fall behind in the game, it’s nearly impossible to regain your losses and get ahead–you’re essentially stuck at the bottom. By the end of the game, one person has worked their way to the top, while the other few are left with nothing. But, just like in business, the top fraction of people producing results isn’t always the same. You just have to find your niche.

In every company, there is a disproportionate relationship between people and value. If you think back to the Pareto principle, you will see that the same concept of skewed results applies. But, while the Pareto principle applies to the efforts that you put forth to achieve the most results, Price’s law applies to the people who are achieving the results. However, both of these concepts can have an impact on your professional success if you know how they work.

How Price’s Law Can Impact Your Career

Price’s Law can have consequences for a company whose sales start to suffer. When a company starts going downhill, those people who are the top performers have options of moving onto other organizations that can offer better opportunities. While these top employees are getting recruited elsewhere, the original company is losing their best people, whose value is very difficult to replace.

If the square root of people who are in your company are producing 50% of the results, you have to position yourself to be one of those few people who are invaluable to the company. This is especially true if you work for a large company, because according to Price’s Law, as a company grows, the number of incompetent people grows exponentially while the number of competent people grows linearly.

There are two parts to working your way into an invaluable role within your company. First, you have to focus on a career where you can add substantial value. You need to find your niche–what is something unique that you bring to the table that is not easy to find in a job candidate? Second, how can you make sure that you’re recognized for your achievements and the value that you add to the company? Let’s look at how you can do both of these things and work your way to the top.

How to Find Your Professional Niche

Explore Your Passions

If you haven’t already done so, make a list of your interests and passions. No matter what field of work you do, there will be times that are challenging. If you ultimately don’t care about your job or what kind of difference you’re making for other people, your probability of quitting will go way up. You have to have some sort of passion for the work that you do in order to have the drive to persevere through the tough times.

When considering what your interests and passions are, think about what you choose to do during your free time. What topics interest you if you’re just browsing the internet or what is something that you could talk about with a friend for hours? Doing some self-reflection can help you pinpoint the things that you care about. For this example, let’s say that you really enjoy graphic design.

What Problems Can You Solve?

Do some research on professions that are related to your interests and read up on companies that are in the business. Maybe there is a local magazine in your area or an advertising company–a lot of different types of businesses have a need for graphic designers. Once you have found where the need is for a service that uses your talents or interests, look for a problem you can solve.

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Do some research on professions that are related to your interests and read up on companies that are in the business.

For example, do you see a lot of low-quality content out there that you know you could improve? Or, if you are already in a career where you are doing graphic design, do you think your company could use some rebranding or upgrading in some way? What gaps do you see in your line of work that you could possibly fill?

Get Creative

Now it’s time to get creative and show others how you can bring something unique to the table. If you’re already in a position, start brainstorming ideas that your company has never done before and start to work in that uncharted territory. Look at what the competition is doing and consider some ways that you could improve upon that.

No matter what field you’re in, you can do some creative thinking by challenging yourself in new ways, changing up your routine, and collaborating with others. The more creative you can be, the more likely you are to come up with a solution to a problem that isn’t quite like anything that has been thought of before.

Once you’ve found your niche and identified some problems and unique solutions, you have to make sure that you’re recognized for your work.

How to Gain the Recognition You Deserve

Claim the Credit You Deserve

If you complete a difficult project or you go above and beyond in some way, make sure to accept the credit for your hard work. You may tend to divert attention elsewhere by recognizing the contributions that other people made, but doing so is a disservice to your future. Claiming credit (when it’s due) will show others the value that you’ve added to the company. Sure, you may prefer to be modest, but don’t hesitate to accept the spotlight when it’s on you. Just remember to be humble when doing so.

Keep Your Superiors in the Loop

While your boss may have been the person who wrote your job description, once you take it over and make it your own, your boss probably doesn’t know all of the details of every project that you work on. He or she could assign you something that seems like a quick task without knowing how much work is actually required to complete the project.

If this is the case, make sure your supervisor knows how much work went into “putting together that quick PowerPoint”–not in a way that seems like you’re complaining, just in an FYI-type manner. If you had to do a lot of late-night research or updating of old information, loop them in by giving them a quick rundown at your next one-on-one meeting. Let them know about all of your accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

Make Yourself Known

You won’t get the recognition you deserve if no one at work knows who you are. Your colleagues will be more likely to demonstrate a sense of appreciation for your work if you have some sort of relationship with them and (if you work in a big company) can put a name with a face. 

This is why it’s important to make it a point to attend office celebrations, participate in group events, and speak up in meetings. Make a name for yourself and develop professional relationships. Once these relationships are made, put yourself in a position to be the “go-to” person when it comes to a specific duty or responsibility.

Make yourself the only person who can solve a specific problem and step up to the plate whenever the need arises. Your boss and colleagues will take notice.

Recognize Others

Part of ensuring people will recognize you for your work is to recognize others for theirs. There is room at the top for more than one person, so make sure to treat other people like you want to be treated in the workplace.

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Make sure to treat other people like you want to be treated in the workplace.

Finally, once you’re in a career that you’re passionate about, you’re doing some work that others are unable (or don’t know how) to do, and you’re gaining success, don’t stop there. You have to continue to fine-tune your skills to keep ahead of the curve. You have to continuously work to improve yourself, learn new things, and grow with the times. As soon as you stop learning, you begin to settle into mediocrity and open up space for newcomers to pass you by.

Professional growth isn’t possible without personal development and life-long learning. Continuous improvement results in more and more opportunities because our society rewards the select few who have the drive to do what the rest of the world doesn’t.

Final Thoughts on Price's Law

Price’s Law shows us that the vast majority of employees in any business are usually just going with the flow and accepting the status quo. It is those who have the greatest sense of creativity that are the most likely to succeed in their field.

When you start to gain some success, more opportunities begin to present themselves, which opens doors to even more chances to succeed. But in order to start achieving results that will help you flourish in your career, you have to gain other people’s recognition for the work you’re doing.

Once you have made a name for yourself, continue to build up your skills to make yourself invaluable. After proving your worth, you will have more freedom to make your job work for you–whether that means having the full say over what projects you take on or knowing you have job security during times of uncertainty, being a valuable member of your team will greatly benefit your career.

Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.

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