We generally don’t travel a lot over the holidays, and we don’t have large extended families on either side to keep us hopping, so the business slowdown gives me a little room to allow for some random reading that goes ‘who knows where.’
So now comes my first blog due date of the year and the first opportunity for all of that to come out in some ‘almost cogent’ 500-word output. My family is happy that you are reading this, and they are off the hook from having to listen to the latest ‘interesting’ thing that Dad wants to share.
You’d think I might try to frame up the coming year with some outline of coming healthcare trends or challenges, and that is your first mistake of the year, assuming I would start with something logical.
Instead, let’s talk about distribution curves, both normal and busted.
You think I was kidding about the family’s relief, but yes, we had a long dinner conversation over the holidays about distribution curves. At least they are all old enough now to have a glass of wine when Dad goes down one of his wormholes.
The bell curve is one of the key underlying truths of life, a reality that shows up all over the place. On many dimensions, it is right to assume that the world is normally distributed and then act accordingly. There are people and organizations on either end of the curve, and they think, feel and behave like the outliers they are. But most are bunched in the fat middle, hanging close to the median, and think the fringe crazies are, well, a little crazy.
But then there are many things that are not normally distributed at all and assuming they are will get you in trouble.
There are 1,000 songs an hour uploaded to music streaming services (will save you the math…that is 9 million a year), but only a handful make money, much less Beyoncé money. That is a very long tail.
Some things are this extreme or that with little in the middle. Bifurcation is one of my favorite smart-sounding words and there is no more interesting example than global population distribution. Take a quick look at this picture. That blows my mind.
OK, Tim, you wandered around the Internet the past couple of weeks. Besides making me more interesting at parties (you needed this for December, not January, didn’t you?), is there a point here about my business?
Well yes, yes there is.
As you plan your strategy, be clear about your assumption on how your market is distributed and then check to make sure you are right.
If it is normally distributed, you can chase the tails or chase the middle, but know they are not same.
If it has a long tail with only a few big winners, make sure your math works.
If it is really bifurcated, don’t get caught in the empty middle.