Update to the Pareto principle in group work

Reading through the post again, there seem to be some questions that could be raised.

For example, if it took 5 people to complete 1 month’s worth of work, is it possible that, if the tasks were rearranged amongst the group, each team member will only work 20% of the time for an entire month? In other words, is it possible that the group of 5 can complete the month’s worth of work in 1/5 of the time (or less than 1 week) at 100% capacity?

That would be a big question. Everyone works in different ways, on different types of tasks. Some like multi-tasking while others like to keep going on a single task until it’s complete. Some like to work uninterrupted while others welcome visits from colleagues. Some are experimentalists, some are theoreticians, and some are computationally-minded. Some are novices while others have sufficient skills to be called an expert in their field.

At times it’s good to pair a novice who is keen and with sufficient skill to learn quickly, with an expert who may have enough on their plate already. An expert can provide guidance, e.g. when a novice is stuck on a problem. But the novice has to know when the interruption is welcome.

Going back to the initial question: to be honest, I don’t know. The answer seems fraught with conditions, such as the ones I outlined above. It seems really dependent on the people and how they like to work on specific tasks.

For instance, me trying to do an experiment will take longer than Jill down the hall. I still know how to do the experiment, and can do it when necessary, but Jill is more efficient at it, because she had done so many of them.

That’s where collaborations in science come in handy. Each person, or even team, has a specific skill set, which may have taken years to nurture. But science is increasingly becoming inter-disciplinary nowadays, as problems are getting harder to solve with just one skill set. Instead of trying to learn a new skill set from scratch, a collaboration can be started with people with the relevant know-how. Collaborations, when planned well, are the 80-20 rule in action.


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