Pareto vs Precision Problems
Everything is one or the other.
Some problems need the best solution.
Most problems just need a solution that’s good enough.
This essay is a Pareto problem.
It needs to communicate what I am trying to say as fast as possible with enough supporting sentences to be cogent and convincing, but not too many or else nobody will read it. The Laws of Internet Physics exhort that “10 minute reads” require a specific mood while “2 minute reads” are always clickable.
Most problems are Pareto problems.
They need an answer more than they need the answer.
This is because there is usually no best answer or the best answer is only marginally better than the good enough answer for the same amount of work or the amount of extra better the best answer provides is not worth expending the extra effort to achieve.
Some problems are Precision problems.
They need an exact answer at an exact time at an exact amount of significant digits.
Rocket physics is one of these problems. The math needs to be tight or spaceship go boom (v sad). Precision problems typically have asymmetric downside or existential risks. If your problem just has regular, moderate stakes bad stuff potential or lower it is probably a Pareto problem.
A few problems exist on a continuum between Pareto and Precision, but they will generally lean towards one side. If it’s truly equidistant, treat it as a Pareto problem.
Don’t do Precision work for Pareto problems. It’s a waste of you and your team’s time and energy.
Don’t do Pareto work for Precision problems. It’s an avoidably inefficient assumption of outsized risk.
If you quickly sort your problems into Pareto or Precision and respond appropriately, you will get to your aspirations much faster.
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