In the late 19th century, Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, noticed that 80 percent of the pea pod harvest from his garden came from 20 percent of his pea plants. He later calculated that 20% of Italians controlled 80% of the country’s wealth. This phenomenon, also known as the Pareto Distribution, holds not just for Italy but in fact for the entire global wealth.

The term Pareto Principle was coined later by Dr. Joseph Juran in the 1940s when he applied Pareto’s principle to his field of operations management. He helped businesses improve production by noting that 80% of their product defects were caused by only 20% of the methods used in production. So, by using this Pareto analysis, he focused on reducing that 20 percent of production problems to increase production quality. He also made popular the notion that we should focus on the “vital few” and ignore the “trivial many” to have the greatest success. 

Today, the 80/20 rule is observed across disciplines, including economics, management, user interface design, quality control, and engineering, to name a few. The principle also gave rise to theories in life management, relationships, performance, and many other areas.

What has this got to do with neurodiversity? Let me explain further.

Consider these facts.

  • 80 percent of a product’s usage involves 20 percent of its features.
  • 80 percent of a town’s traffic is on 20 percent of its roads.
  • 80 percent of a company’s revenue comes from 20 percent of its products.
  • 80 percent of innovation comes from 20 percent of the people.
  • 80 percent of progress comes from 20 percent of the effort.
  • 80 percent of errors are caused by 20 percent of the components.

This is fascinating information! Digging further, I discovered that for smartphones and other pocket-sized devices, Android leads with a market share of 78% while Apple’s IOS has 22%. Very close to 80:20. Also for desktops and laptop computers, Windows is the most used with 75% followed by Apple macOS (15%) Linux (7.5%), and Chrome OS (2.5%). Gain very close to 80:20.

What I’m alluding to may be a very broad classification but my point is very limited. There is a pattern here and everywhere. Just look around you. You will notice the 80:20 rule in almost every sphere of life, business, politics, and finance, and at a sub-conscious level influences most of our life’s decisions.

Here’s more

  • 20% of the sales reps generate 80% of total sales.
  • 20% of customers account for 80% of total profits.
  • 20% of the most reported software bugs cause 80% of software crashes.
  • 20% of patients account for 80% of healthcare spending
  • 20% of earners pay roughly 80% of the overall taxes.

On a more personal note, you might be able to relate to my unintentional 80/20 habits.

I own quite a few good clothes, but 80% of the time I don’t use more than 20% of them. They just lie there in the closet purposelessly.

I have 4 rooms in my house, but I spend about 80% of my time in just my working corner, and bedroom (exactly 20%).

On my smartphone, I have many different mobile apps pinned to the tiles, but 80% of the time I’m only using the usual 20% on my home screen.

As for socializing,  when I do, 80% of my time is spent with the same 20% of my friends and family members, and colleagues.

Still no sign of the Neurodiversity connection? Let me lay it out for you.

Neurodivergents have always been at the forefront of every major event, discovery, development, and creation throughout human evolution. It was only after the invention of the modern education system that we have begun to identify neurodivergences as those that did not ‘fit’ into that system. Before that, neurodivergents or neurotypicals, there was no discrimination. They co-existed without knowing the differences. Divergences were accepted as a natural form of being.

Fast forward to today, where the neurotypical world has made it impossible for the neurodivergents to ‘fit’ in. They are excluded by the design of society and systems. About 20% of the global population is neurodivergent. Is this by design? Have we been stunting human evolution all this while by excluding this minority group? As more and more companies realize the true value of including all neurotypes, we find that the focus is shifting gradually towards this 20%, who possess naturally occurring cognitive abilities, talents, and traits that make them a huge asset for companies.

Roughly a quarter century has gone by as the neurotypical world approached neuroinclusion with utmost caution and fear (yes, I dare say it). But there have been welcome developments in large companies as they looked to attract certain abilities in their talent acquisition strategy. They found them in neurodivergents. The focus must now remain on this 20% for a brighter future for the human species as a whole. Thank you, Pareto!