Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

I love Hans Rosling’s zeal for making stats come alive!

Note that while the income scale is logarithmic, the age scale is linear. The visualisation shows that beyond a certain level of wealth, life expectancy actually doesn’t increase much further. That’s a common pattern, beyond a certain level “improvements” become prohibitively expensive in that one realm. But improvements are still possible, through other means.

Analogously, think of the electricity network in many countries. Sure you lose power sometimes when there’s a big storm (I’m in Australia and many power lines are overhead not underground), but overall it’s pretty reliable. People and companies still demand better, but amount of extra money that the power distribution companies would need to spent to make it even more reliable is not realistic: they’ve already reached the plateau. I can still get more reliable power though, I have little UPSs (uninterruptable power supply) for items around my home that I don’t want to lose power. That’s cheap and effective.

What are the differences?

  • in this particular case it’s me not the power company taking the initiative;
  • my solution deals with only those appliances that require continuous power (or a gracious shutdown).
  • my focused solution is cheap, and highly effective: I actually get close to 100%.

There are many areas where this lesson applies in business, be it in further development of existing products, markets, manufacturing processes, and so on. In a way, my earlier post on what motivates people was also an example of this same phenomenon: people just need to earn enough, beyond that performance tends to actually not just go down but plummet!