Price’s law is neat and ridiculous

Price’s law says that 50% of the work is done by the square root of the total number of people who participate in the work.


For example, take an engineering team of 100 people. Price’s law says that 50% of the work is done by ten of those engineers. So on average, each of those ten people does roughly 10x the work of each of the other 90 people. The 10x engineer is real! Yeah, math!

It’s like the nerdy cousin of the Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule). But the interesting part is how the ratio changes as the sample size gets larger. For a company of 25, Price’s law says 50% of the work is done by 20% of the people. But for a company of 2500, that drops to 2% of the people.

For Google, Price’s law claims that half of the work comes from 374 of 140k employees. Obviously impossible, right? Yeah, there should probably be an upper limit on sample size. But for small to mid-sized companies, it feels reasonable to me. Depends on how effective the culture is around hiring slow and firing fast.

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