The Eponymous Principles of Management : Parkinson’s Law, Its Variants & Time Management – Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law is essentially a thumb rule which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. It is used as a criticism against the inefficiencies of bureaucracies in large organisations. Parkinson’s law refers to the tendency among people at work to finish their tasks only just in time for the deadline even though they are capable of completing it earlier. Over the period of time, it came to be identified the usual procrastinating tendency in, almost, everyone.

Parkinson’s law is attributed to British naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson who wrote about it in a satirical article published in The Economist in 1955. It was later reprinted in the 1958 book Parkinson’s Law or the Pursuit of Progress. The line which is now accepted as rule was in fact the first line of that article- “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Parkinson did not name the current law as such in that article. He in fact observed that what really can occupy a busy person for not more than three minutes can leave another person prostrate for the whole day, with all incumbent doubt, anxiety, and toll. His main interest still was in the effect this elasticity of time had with reference to the quantum work had on the rising number of civil servants. He went on to explain this phenomenon by two axiomatic statements:

(1) “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals,” and

(2) “Officials make work for each other.”

He noted that the number employed in a bureaucracy rose by 5–7 per cent per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done.” Parkinson states that,  ‘in any public administrative department not actually at war the staff increase may be expected to follow this formula” (for a given year), which he called as The Law of Multiplication of Subordinates :

x = (2km+P)/n

    • x – number of new employees to be hired annually
    • k – number of employees who want to be promoted by hiring new employees
    • m – number of working hours per person for the preparation of internal memoranda (micropolitics)
    • P – difference: age at hiring − age at retirement
    • n – number of administrative files actually completed

It was this multiplication of subordinates that necessitated work distribution such that each one of them remained busy, which was perhaps possible by only through completing the task only when it was finally due.

Parkinson states at the end of his article that discovery of the law (of multiplication of subordinates) is purely scientific delivery.  As botanist’s business is to only eradicate weeds, not to tell us how fast they can grow, so is the case with his law.

One scholar who has taken a serious look at Parkinson’s Law is Stefan Thurner, a professor in Science of Complex Systems at the Medical University of Vienna. He happened to read Parkinson’s book around the same time when he was perplexed with increase in the number of administrative employees and was inspired to turn it into a mathematical model that could be manipulated and tested, along with co-authors Peter Klimek and Rudolf Hanel. In fact, studies in the decades since Parkinson wrote his essay have shown it has some merit.

In his book, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, Eldar Shafir and co-author Sendhil Mullainathan talk about focusing deeply on a project at the cost of other things. “When you have a deadline it’s like a storm ahead of you or having a truck around the corner. It’s menacing and it’s approaching, so you focus heavily on the task.” And you may well pull off a great job, but the problem is that everything else gets moved to the periphery. And there’s always the chance that rushing to accomplish something in too few hours can have drawbacks as well, particularly if your deadline is set by somebody else.

Elizabeth Tenney, an assistant professor at the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business, in her book – co-authored with Don A Moore – Time Pressure, Performance and Productivity, states, inter alia, that “When people sit down to do a task, they’ll put in a lot of effort initially. At some point there’s going to be diminishing returns on extra effort. To optimise productivity, you need to maximise benefits and minimise costs and find that inflection point, which is where you should start to wrap up.”[1]

Similar other studies have established Parkinson’s Law, in the form as is now well-known, as the cornerstone of productivity of time.

[1] The ‘law’ that explains why you can’t get anything done – Tiffanie Wen

The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Murphy’s Law and Its Variants – The 14 variation Laws of Murphy

If you will search for a variation of Murphy’s Law, then you will never be disappointed, because you will definitely land up on more than one such variations. However, if our, apparently never ending,  discussion on Murphy’s Law has to end, it better end on the note of its 14 variation laws, and cover all other possible variations within these 14 laws..

Murphy’s First Law:  Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Murphy’s Second Law:  Nothing is as easy as it looks.

Murphy’s Third Law:  Everything takes longer than you think it will.

Murphy’s Fourth Law:  If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.

Corollary : If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.

Murphy’s Fifth Law:  If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.

Murphy’s Sixth Law:  If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.

Murphy’s Seventh Law:  Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.

Murphy’s Eighth Law:  If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

Murphy’s Ninth Law:  Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

Murphy’s Tenth Law:  Mother nature is a bitch.

Murphy’s Eleventh Law:  It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Murphy’s Twelfth Law:  Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.

Murphy’s Thirteenth Law:  Every solution breeds new problems.

Murphy’s Fourteenth Law:  If anything can’t go wrong on its own, someone will make it go wrong.

These variations of the law simply rub in the message that Stewart’s corollary of Murphy’s Law has stated:

Murphy’s Law may be delayed or suspended for an indefinite period of time, provided that such delay or suspension will result in a greater catastrophe at a later date.

So here is to wish that Murphy’s Law affects you in a way which can cause the damage that you can control……………… But would THE Murphy’s Law will allow that wish to come true?

We keep our fingers crossed, and……

The individually published articles of ‘The Murphy’s Law and Its Variants’ on this blog can be read / downloaded as one file by clicking the hyperlink.

The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Murphy’s Law and Its Variants – Florentin’s Laws – The Adventures of Variations of Passing It On

Florentin’s Laws are mixtures of pessimism (output of Murphy’s Laws) and optimism (Peter’s Laws, with a good pinch of humour added.


Murphy’s Law

“If anything can go wrong, will go wrong’


Peter’s Law

‘If anything can go wrong, fix it’

When transformed to

Florentin’s Law


‘If anything can go wrong pass it on to others’

Being paradoxist in nature, Florentin’s Laws are especially deviations, modifications, generalizations, contra-sayings, parodies, or mixtures of the previous Murphyís Laws and Peter’s Laws. And also of aphorisms, proverbs, known citations, clichés, scientific results (from physics, mathematics, philosophy, …), etc. Alternatively, collations of opposite ideas – gathered from folklore, from ads, from literature, from familiar speech.[1]

Florentin Smarandache, the creator of (so-called) Florentin’s Laws has been the Founder of neutrosophy (generalization of dialectics), neutrosophic set, logic, probability and statistics, since 1995[2]. Neutrosophy is a new branch of philosophy that studies the origin, nature, and scope of neutralities, as well as their interactions with different ideational spectra. Etymologically, neutro-sophy [French neutre < Latin neuter, neutral, and Greek sophia, skill/wisdom] means knowledge of neutral thought. The term was coined by the author.

This theory considers every notion or idea <A> together with its opposite or negation <antiA> and with their spectrum of neutralities <neutA> in between them (i.e., notions or ideas supporting neither <A> nor <antiA>). The <neutA> and <antiA> ideas together are referred to as <nonA>. According to Neutrosophy theory every idea <A> tends to be neutralized and balanced by <antiA> and <nonA> ideas – as a state of equilibrium.[3]

Devoid of this clutter of the seemingly complicated theory of neutrosophy, Florentin’s Laws are neither Murphy’s (pessimistic) Laws nor Peter’s (optimistic) Laws, but partially pessimistic and partially optimistic, while another part is neutral (Ambiguous: neither pessimistic nor optimistic) – as in neutrosophic logic.

As Florentin Smarandache puts it across in his book, Florentin’s Laws (If anything can go wrong pass it on to someone else!), referred to earlier,

in philosophical parlance, Peter’s law can be considered as Weberian (you know, those who think that hard-work ethics is the basic element of good society, and it does), while Murphy’s law may be more like ‘Malthusian’ (for who can escape from the fate of anything that can possibly go wrong?). In this sense, Florentin’s law can be considered as something between these extreme situations: it is more comparable to Zen attitude, in the sense that it is advising us to keep the hard work but keep it fun too.

Or if we are allowed to rephrase a wisdom saying:

“Give me strength to change what can be changed,
And patience to accept what cannot be changed,
And courage to pass it on to someone else to make the changes happened,
And wisdom to keep the change.”

The video clip’ Florentin’s Law’ – by Amalia Grigorescu – very succinctly goes on to present several other variations of the Florentin’s Law.

[1] Florentin’s Laws (If anything can go wrong pass it on to someone else!) – by Florentin Smarandache

[2] Florentin Smarandache

[3] Florentin Smarandache: Law of Included Multiple-Middle – Book Review

The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Murphy’s Law and Its Variants – The Peter’s Law(s) – The Core at the ‘Persistent and Passionate’ Problem-solving Mind

Peter’s Laws are adages that came in as good help to Peter Diamandis[1], when he was covered with mundane difficulties.

The creator of Peter’s Laws, Peter Diamandis is successful orator while also being a well-known entrepreneur and a capable author. Among several of his known and successful ventures is X Prize Foundation which offers attractive prize money for innovative solutions in the fields of space flights, less expensive, mobile medical devices, cleaning of oil spills, etc. He is also chairman of Singularity University which specializes in academic programs for rapidly developing technologies. Peter Diamandis is also credited with the best-selling The Exponential Mindset Trilogy – Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think[2], Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World[3]. and The Future is Faster Than You Think[4]

We will briefly explore the origin of the Peter’s Law and the commentary on some other laws with the help of Peter Diamandis’ blogpost How You Can Use Peter’s Laws

What is now fondly known as Peter’s Law – “If anything can go wrong, fix it!’ – came into being more in the reactive mood of To Hell with Murphy’s Law! From thereon it was “simply a matter of noticing what” he believed in. “Creating, borrowing, modifying those core “have served him very well and made Peter Diamandis a firm believer in ‘The best way to predict future is to create it yourself’.  At a very fundamental level, this is exactly what it means to be an entrepreneur. Have a vision for tomorrow and pull yourself toward it.

Like all other human being, being hardwired to face challenges has also made Peter Diamandis an ardent follower of the adage, that in order to stay alive we have to become alive. That can be made a reality if you practice ‘When faced without a challenge, create one’. He well supports this hypothesis with a study published in British Medical Journal that those who retired at 65 lived more than those who retired at 55. Peter Diamandis infers that the state of optimal human performance shows up only outside of our comfort zone, when we are pushing limits and using our skills to the utmost.

It is also almost universally observed that we are also, generally, trained in making one choice between the two options. However, there are enough illustrations like Steve Jobs or Lan Musk or Richard Bronson, to show that by working with more than choice if implemented optimally and with due care and diligence, can help accelerate the rate of growth and breadth of your network of people as well as that of the resources such that sum parts can well exceed the whole. Thus, it makes sense When given a choice- take both.

The more you know about anything more yo become aware of the related pros and cons.  As you tend to reach the level of expertise on that subject, you tend to see that thing in so greater details that you tend to believe that matter is so complex that it is beyond the reach of any average person. So when you explain that average person, or even another expert, you tend to emphasise the cons, probably on the assumption that by emphasizing the negatives you make it easier for the other person to understand the potential pitfalls of doing that thing. As result, that common person forms an opinion that an expert is someone who can tell you how something cannot be done.

Henry Ford has a very interesting take on ‘an expert’. When asked about his employees, he had, so tellingly, said –

“None of our men are ‘experts.’ We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the ‘expert’ state of mind a great number of things become impossible.”

Whether among animals or among human beings, any one who happens to be (even slightly) different than the group, that one is usually gets ostracized, and even likely to be subjected to the treatment due to something that is ridiculous. As Burt Rutan who went onto win the $10 million prise money, after eight years from the first rejection, for his brilliant SpaceShipOne project, says, “The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”, In more common, colloquial, words:

On a similar note, here is the (final) list of 31 Peter’s Laws:

Peter’s Laws: The Creed of the Persistent and Passionate mind

(circa July 2011)

  1. If anything can go wrong, Fix It!!… to hell with Murphy!
  2. When given a choice…  take both!!
  3. Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.
  4. Start at the top then work your way up.
  5. Do it by the book … but be the author!
  6. When forced to compromise, ask for more.
  7. If it’s worth doing, it’s got to be done right now.
  8. If you can’t win, change the rules.
  9. If you can’t change the rules, then ignore them.
  10. Perfection is not optional.
  11. When faced without a challenge, make one.
  12. “No” simply means begin again at one level higher.
  13. Don’t walk when you can run.
  14. Bureaucracy is a challenge to be conquered with a righteous attitude, a tolerance for stupidity, and a bulldozer when necessary.
  15. When in doubt: THINK!
  16. Patience is a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing.
  17. The squeaky wheel gets replaced.
  18. The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.
  19. The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself!
  20. The ratio of something to nothing is infinite.
  21. You get what you incentivize.
  22. If you think it is impossible, then it is… for you.
  23. An expert is someone who can tell you exactly how it can’t be done.
  24. The day before something is a breakthrough it’s a crazy idea.
  25. If it were easy it would have been done already.
  26. Without a target you’ll miss it every time.
  27. Bullshit walks, hardware talks.
  28. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.
  29. The world’s most precious resource is the passionate and committed human mind.
  30. Fail early, fail often!
  31. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Copyright, 1986, 2009, Peter H. Diamandis, All Rights Reserved.  Laws # 14 & #18 by Todd B. Hawley.  #19 Adopted from Alan Kay.

[1] My Name is Peter Diamandis

[2] Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler on Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think!

[3] How to Think Bigger: Thinking Big and Bold | Peter Diamandis

[4] Peter H. Diamandis: The Future is Faster Than You Think

The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Murphy’s Law and Its Variants – The Finagle’s Law of Dynamic Negatives

Murphy’s Law has ‘folk’ adage variant, known as Finagle Law, which reads as “Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment.

Finagle has been used in the USA, as a verb meaning ‘to obtain a result by trickery; to deceive; to wangle’. A finagler is recorded in the American Dialect Society’s Dialect Notes, 1922 as: “One who stalls until someone else pays the check” The English Dialect Dictionary lists the words fainaigue and feneague – meaning ‘to cheat’. From this point of view, Finagle’s law is more often applied specifically as a spoof version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and is stated as ‘The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum’.[1]

However, in general. It is meant to convey the fickle nature of  random events, the events that do happen and when they do happen, the timing is most inconvenient. informs us that ‘The term “Finagle’s Law” was first used by John W. Campbell, Jr., the influential editor of Astounding Science Fiction. He used it frequently in his editorials for many years in the 1940s to 1960s but it never came into general usage the way Murphy’s Law has. In the Star Trek episode “The Ultimate Computer”, Dr. McCoy refers to an alcoholic drink known as the “Finagle’s Folly,” apparently a reference to “Finagle’s Law.” In Season 2, Episode 1, Captain Kirk tells Spock, “As one of Finagle’s Laws puts it: ‘Any home port the ship makes will be somebody else’s, not mine.'” Eventually the term “Finagle’s law” was popularized by science fiction author Larry Niven in several stories depicting a frontier culture of asteroid miners; this “Belter” culture professed a religion and/or running joke involving the worship of the dread god Finagle and his mad prophet Murphy. “Finagle’s Law” can also be the related belief, “Inanimate objects are out to get us,” also known as Resistentialism. Similar to Finagle’s Law is the verbless phrase of the German novelist Friedrich Theodor Vischer: “die Tücke des Objekts” (the spite of inanimate objects – a comic theory that inanimate objects conspire against humans!! This also is known by a fancy name Resistentialism

Murphy’s Law is concerned more about outcomes than the probability of such outcomes. Murphy’s law lends to the belief that if something can go wrong, some person will definitely be precipitating that action, whether accidentally or by the random ‘human error’ or by malice. To those who see better things in the world, this chance cause can happen for good at a time when it may be most beneficial. After all, if mistakes have fouled up some major experiments, mistakes have also been instrumental in many discoveries as well.

The fact the Finagles’ Law (or even Murphy’s Law) will inevitably come into play should make someone as cautious as one can ever be, so as to avoid such undesirable events. However, the fact that such events do keep on happening shows that either people, by the sheer human nature, tend to overlook some or the other thing or how so ever a human being is smart, nature has a way to outsmart his smartness.

The scale at which the Finagle’s Law is found to be operative can be judged by its n-number of variants in the fields of programming, hardware, IT etc., by visiting Murphy’s Law @ CASRAI.

There are many other versions also coined up, such as –

  • If an experiment works, something has gone wrong. (Finagles 1st Law).
  • No matter what the experiment’s result, there will always be someone eager to:
    • misinterpret it,
    • fake it, or
    • believe it supports his own pet theory. (Finagle’s 2nd Law).
  • In any collection of data, the figure most obviously correct, beyond all need of checking, is the mistake. (Finagle’s 3rd Law).
  • Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it only makes it worse. (Finagle’s 4th Law).

The available literature of the real-life examples of applicability of Finagle’s Law is replete with examples in almost all walks of life[2]. We will take up just one, from the drama.

Finagles’s law is responsible for countless storylines in television sitcoms, plays, movies, novels, etc., most especially if they rely heavily on comedy. The odds of something happening as the plot unfolds does not depend on the actual likelihood of it happening.  Instead, the odds of something happening as the plot unfolds depends on the potential for the most disastrous thing happening. Just recall any slapstick comedy, like that of Laurel Hardy for example, and the matter will be abundantly clear.[3] Why would this be?

It’s because without drama and conflict[4], there really isn’t any reason for an audience to stick around to watch how it all ends. As George Barnard Shaw puts it, ‘no conflict, no drama. This is called the Rule Of Drama that states, “If the potential for conflict is visible, then it will never be passed over.”  Were it not for Finagle’s Law, the Rule of Drama would have a much more difficult time of it all. Third Doctor puts it up this more dramatically – “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But it’s not necessarily the most interesting.”

And absence of Fiangle’s Law, would have paled our life !

[1] Actual origin of the name Finagle’s law

[2] Murphy’s Law … Defensive design little light reading


[4] Elements of Drama: Conflict

The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Murphy’s Law and Its Variants – The Sod’s Law : The Irony of Fate

The Sod’s Law – if something can go wrong, it will[1]– is broader, in the meaning and applicability, than the Murphy’s Law. It reflects more on the mockery that fate plays with a ‘sod’ – that poor chap.

The Sod’s Law is not just about things going wrong, but with the ironies of fate. ‘Life’s little ironies’, as Thomas Hardy called them. And in fact, Hardy’s novels can best be read as illustrations of the inexorability of sod’s law.

This is best illustrated by the example of the probability of the tossed coin falling ‘heads’ or ‘tails’. The 50:50 mathematical probability of coin falling heads or tails remains true with our poor chap, sod, but it falls ‘heads’ when he expects it to be ‘tails’ and falls ‘tails’ when he expects it ‘heads’. Thus, Sod’s Law states how something will go wrong just exactly when one most wants it to go right.

Murphy’s Law is an American point of view. However, since the name Murphy has a strong Irish connotation, the British side prefers to use term Sod’s Law. However, apart from this rather simplistic comparison of the two laws, if we closely read the wording of each law, we do see the relative simplicity of Murphy’s Law and has more positive and optimistic clarification by Capt. Edward A. Murphy which reads, If it can happen, it will.’” So, if things would only go wrong when they can, one can always take preventive action so that they don’t. That way. Murphy’s law provides a forceful, energetic incentive to be more careful:,

On the other hand, the close reading of Sod’s law shows it will operate however careful and energetic you are. The best that anyone can do is ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst; accept what the fate has hidden in its store. When it comes out in open accept that as it has come —preferably with a wry smile.

Of course, there are a few lucky one who always call their bet correctly, every time, much against the normally expected pattern of luck favouring a bet in any set of ‘free’ play of betting. One may even like to call it an exception to the Sod’s Law.

Also excluded form the scope of application of Sod’s Law are the ‘Black Swan’ events, events that happen extremely rarely, like scientific discoveries, historical events and artistic achievements and the like. Being extremely rare, they don’t happen often enough for to be able to work out the patterns of their occurrence, so to say, almost in random pattern. In other words, the application of the law, typically, is about the events that happen in the normal course of our lives. But if one looks back over a longer span t=of time, even these evets invariably happen, and thus do follow Sod’s Law.

The bottom line is, whether person is stupid enough not plan actions with respect to what is seen on the future or a wise one who does all possible elaborate planning to ensure that anything and everything preventable in the foreseeable future is explicitly addresses through some or other type of risk mitigation system, the world of the nature has far too many variables to make the Sod’s Law to come into play.

[1] Sod’s Law Explained

The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Murphy’s Law and Its Variants – Murphy’s Law – An Overview

We keep hearing, ‘why this thing has to always happen with me?’. Or every time you go to refill your favorite dish from buffet spread, you will find that the source vessel itself requires a refill. Or when you are in hurry to reach somewhere, you will face all signals just turn ‘red’ as you approach traffic junction. The most striking phenomenon is the third wave of Covid-19, which everyone expected it will, and indeed is now rampant globally.

In the management parlance such inevitable (looking or real) events are known to be governed by what is very widely known epigram Murphy’s Law, which states that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

K.anh.eya.191, CC BY-SA 4.0
<; via Wikimedia Commons

As it happens with most of the epigrams, the real source of origin always remains hidden behind several anecdotal stories. One such, widely accepted, story of origin of Murphy’s Law is -:

‘Murphy’s Law (“If anything can go wrong, it will”) was born at (American) Edwards Air Force Base in 1949 at North Base.

‘It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, (a project) designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash.

One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”

The contractor’s project manager kept a list of “laws” and added this one, which he called Murphy’s Law.

‘Actually, what he did was take an old law that had been around for years in a more basic form and give it a name.

‘Shortly afterwards, the Air Force doctor (Dr. John Paul Stapp[1]) who rode a sled on the deceleration track to a stop, pulling 40 Gs, gave a press conference. He said that their good safety record on the project was due to a firm belief in Murphy’s Law and in the necessity to try and circumvent it.

‘Aerospace manufacturers picked it up and used it widely in their ads during the next few months, and soon it was being quoted in many news and magazine articles. THE Murphy’s Law was born.[2]

It is also noted that the correct, original Murphy’s Law reads: “If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.” The law seems to have so universal appeal that before too many years had gone by, all kinds of variants had passed into the popular imagination, changing or adding a phrase here a phrase there. as they went. Most of these are variants on “Anything that can go wrong, will” which is a shortened version of Finagle’s Law[3].

And here is another interesting twist to the tale: “It’s supposed to be, ‘If it can happen, it will,’” a former Edwards engineer told Spark. “Not ‘Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.’” In a radio interview in the early 1980s[4], Murphy insisted he had in fact meant it in the former, more motivating sense.[5]

The memetic drift apparent in these mutants clearly demonstrates Murphy’s Law acting on itself! Author Arthur Bloch has compiled several books full of corollaries to Murphy’s law and variations thereof. The first of these was Murphy’s law and other reasons why things go wrong!

The academic and scientific community have had their say on the law –

According to Richard Dawkins, so-called laws like Murphy’s law and Sod’s law are nonsense because they require inanimate objects to have desires of their own, or else to react according to one’s own desires. Dawkins points out that a certain class of events may occur all the time but are only noticed when they become a nuisance. He gives as an example aircraft noise interfering with filming. Aircraft are in the sky all the time but are only taken note of when they cause a problem. This is a form of confirmation bias whereby the investigator seeks out evidence to confirm his already formed ideas, but does not look for evidence that contradicts them

Similarly, David Hand, emeritus professor of mathematics and senior research investigator at Imperial College London, points out that the law of truly large numbers should lead one to expect the kind of events predicted by Murphy’s law to occur occasionally. Selection bias will ensure that those ones are remembered, and the many times Murphy’s law was not true are forgotten.

There have been persistent references to Murphy’s law associating it with the laws of thermodynamics from early on. In particular, Murphy’s law is often cited as a form of the second law of thermodynamics (the law of entropy) because both are predicting a tendency to a more disorganised state. Atanu Chatterjee investigated this idea by formally stating Murphy’s law in mathematical terms. Chatterjee found that Murphy’s law so stated could be disproved using the principle of least action.[6]

An amateur mathematician from the UK, Phillip Obayda, has another explanation. He drew up an equation combining the factors that influence the performance of a task – urgency, complexity, and importance, as well as skill (or lack thereof). He calculated the likelihood of a few familiar scenarios. He observed that to change the odds, all you have to do is alter one element of the equation. For instance, try to avoid doing anything complex or important when you’re in a rush, particularly if it requires skills you don’t have. But in general, the math proves that the universe really does hate you.[7]

So, whether Murphy’s Law is just a epigram, or some unfathomable probable event or a mathematically possible situation, it seems quite certain that by trying to understand all such possibilities and taking all known possible actions to prevent does have real value. The safety that present day aircraft cockpit has so reliably been proven is a direct credit to the strong belief in Murphy’s Law.

As such, we would also try to see what other variations to this Lawa re, why they came in to being and what are their significance in the next few episodes.


[1] Dr. John Stapp was an inveterate collector of aphorisms and adages, kept a logbook of such, and the practice spread to his entire working group. He published a collection of these in 1992 – a witty and humorous book – For Your Moments of Inertia: From Levity to Gravity: A Treatise Celebrating your Right to Laugh. He is also credited with an eponymous law Stapp’s Ironic Paradox.

[2] Murphy’s law’s origin

[3] Finagle’s law of dynamic negatives – “Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment.”

[4] Comedian Robin Ince explores Laws that are not laws- Murphy’s Law

[5] Murphy’s Law is totally misunderstood and is in fact a call to excellence

[6] Murphy’s Law

[7] The Mathematics of Murphy’s Law

The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Peter Prescription

How To Make Things Go Right

During his research for the groundwork that led to establishment of Peter Principle, Dr, Laurence J Peter observed that every advancement that human being made during the growth of civilization ultimately caused some unhappiness of classifying the mankind into some or other kind of classes, which he calls as hierarchy.

His understanding of the adverse effect that universal existence of Peter Principle has created, led him to work on developing a set of prescriptions that “will lead to great personal fulfilment and the joy of real accomplishment”. He sincerely claims that purpose of these prescriptions was “achievement of happiness in all aspects of life. This is accomplished …  through fulfilling your best potential while avoiding the pitfalls of incompetence”. He also submits that true progress is achieved through moving forward, not through moving upward.

The copy of a summary page from the book, The Peter Prescription: How To Be Creative, Confident and Competent (as first published in 1972) is shows that book is presented in three parts.

Each chapter in these parts is arranged as:

1. Incompetence treadmill
Onward and upward
Sex and society
Hierarchal regression
The mediocracy
2. Protect your competence
Know thyself
Know thy hierarchy
Know thy direction
Know thy defences
3. Manage for competence
The competence objective
The rational process
The gift of prophecy
The compensation miracle
Au Revoir.

This new book is much more serious; it goes further, but also deeper than “The Peter Principle”. Yet it provides as much humour as one could wish for, and a practical program for anyone who wants to avoid incompetence, find happiness and work towards a better world.

The humour part of the book can best be appreciated and enjoyed if one reads the book itself.

The Part 2 of the book present 25 of Peter Prescriptions to help protect the competence.  The author quite affirmatively submits that the prescriptions are simple rules of life that one ought to apply in the life so as to attain maximum fulfilment of joy and peace of mind and life on his own terms, within given circumstances. Each of the prescription is well explained by appropriate case studies and speaking quotations. The prescriptions no. 23 to 25 are recommended to be used when the job or competence in jeopardy. However, the author, in the normal flow of his writing, very quietly states that The Law of Perversity of Nature should always be remembered.

The Part 3 presents ways in which to improve the management skills so that assistance to others also can be provided to avoid incompetence. These are also presented in the form of next set of 36 prescriptions. Again, the prescriptions appear more to be day-to-day common-sense issues. However, the fact that everyone tends to rise to one’s level of incompetence sometime in the life, we must be failing to use some of these common-sense prescriptions unconsciously. The book, therefore, is an alert to keep these on our conscious mind every time.

The book ends with The Peter Plan which looks at the Peter Prescriptions as the first step in reversing escalatory entrapment.

Ultimately it is means to the end to begin the reconstructive planning of the whole society.

The author, Dr. Laurence J Peter is motivated by the ‘modest’ ambition to save the mankind.

Every ‘common man’ may not have such ambitions. But it still makes lot of sense to know what one’s own (core) competence is, at a given level of hierarchy, in the given circumstances. That, in turn requires a person to be a life-long learner. (After all), Man cannot live by the incompetence alone.

I believe our journey into the awareness of The Peter Principle and the Related Eponymous Laws will kindle that spark in the reader to be the life-long learner.


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Note: The sketch and quotes used in the article are taken form the book “The Peter Prescription’.

The individually published article of ‘The Peter Principle and the related other eponymous principles of management’ can be read / downloaded as one file by clicking the hyperlink.

The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Bannister Effect

It is Only Impossible, Until It’s Possible

It was thought to be impossible to run a mile in under four minutes, until Roger Bannister did it at, in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds, on a windy spring day at Oxford on May 6, 1954.[1] Two months later, he raced his great rival John Landy of Australia and won that race, with both men going under four minutes, and within three years 16 runners had gone under the barrier. The current mile world record holders are Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco with a time of 3:43.13, and Sifan Hassan of The Netherlands with the women’s record of 4:12.33.

One would find similarities with the debate whether Alexander Graham Bell should be credited with the invention of (harmonic) phone or should it be Antonio Meucci and Eisha Gray. The Wright brothers failed attempt to fly their aircraft first time on December 14, 1903. Since Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing scaled the Mount Everest on May 29, 1953, many expeditions have subsequently made up to that coveted peak. Now when private journeys into the outer space have becoming a reality, more than six decades after the historic flight on April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin is widely celebrated in Russian space museums, with numerous artifacts, busts and statues displayed in his honour. On July 29, 1969, Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the spacecraft Apollo 8 and proclaimed: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” (› Play Audio). But we do not remember that he said at the subsequent press conference that this feat was possible because of the hundreds of peoples’ toils.

All others who repeated these feats have done far better than these first timers. But we remember these first timers, only. Because these and several such first-ever events have changed the perception of human race what it can achieve.

There is a school of thought which believes that once there is a proof that something can be done, it induces the belief that it can be done. Another school of thought who analysed Bannister’s approach proposes that the belief comes before the proof.

We have a system in our bodies called the reticular activating system (RAS) that helps our brains decide what information to focus on and what to delete.

With a clearly defined purpose, a mission, and with living every moment in a state of certainty that you’ll achieve it, you influence what your RAS filters out and what lights it up.  As a result, you pay special attention things that help you achieve what you’re after, things you otherwise would have never noticed.

Below are three select quotes in bold text from Bannister with corresponding  analysis based upon what we know about the energy universe 105 years after Einstein’s relativity theory exposed it.

  • “We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves.”

The heart is a powerful energy centre that drives human beings to perform almost unimaginable acts of bravery, resilience and ingenuity. It also releases hormones as needed.

  • “Without the concentration of the mind and the will, performance would not result.”

Pure consciousness is the state of awareness without any thought processes at all. It is the coveted stage of meditation within the eternal mindfulness of now.

The most courageous quote from Bannister, perhaps is:

  • “No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamt existed.”

The energy vibrations of nature were likely coherent with his own, leading to a complementary energy waveform of greater amplitude or power. This additive strength is commonly witnessed when matching ripples on a pond combine into larger waveforms. Some definitions of samadhi are noted as union with divine power.[2]

One of the best explanations for this phenomenon is the theory of self-efficacy developed by the renowned psychologist, Albert Bandura. According to Bandura (1997), self-efficacy is defined as “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments.”

The self-efficacy theory suggests that individuals with high self-efficacy are more likely to take the most action towards their goals, persist in the face of adversity and push the barriers of what they believe is possible. They are also more likely to tap into states of flow that improve mental and physical performance.

In short, the key difference between individuals with low versus high self-efficacy, is that the latter has a growth mindset whilst the former has a fixed mindset. Followers wait for leaders to show them what’s possible. Leaders break the barriers of what’s possible.[3]

It’s about mind over matter, stepping outside your comfort zone and overcoming mental barriers. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so move out of it. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new. We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.

Elbert Hubbard wrote:  The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.

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The story of Dr. Roger Bannister’s sub-four-minute mile has a simple lesson for business and life. That lesson is that what others believe to be our abilities and limitations has absolutely no bearing on how high we can take ourselves. What does matter ultimately (and primarily), however, is what we believe to be our abilities and limitations….. that for us to be as successful as we can be, the starting point is that we simply need to BELIEVE.[4]

In other words, what goes for runners goes for leaders running organizations. In business, progress does not move in straight lines. Whether it’s an executive, an entrepreneur, or a technologist, some innovator changes the game, and that which was thought to be unreachable becomes a benchmark, something for others to shoot for. That’s Roger Bannister’s true legacy and lesson for all of us who see the role of leadership as doing things that haven’t been done before.

In fact, two Wharton School professors have analyzed the lessons for business of the four-minute mile. In their book, The Power of Impossible Thinking, Yoram Wind and Colin Crook devote an entire chapter to an assessment of Bannister’s feat and emphasize the mindset behind it rather than the physical achievement. How is it, they wonder, that so many runners smashed the four-minute barrier after Bannister became the first to do it. What changed was the mental model. The runners of the past had been held back by a mindset that said they could not surpass the four-minute mile. When that limit was broken, the others saw that they could do something they had previously thought impossible.”

Most thinking about strategy, competition, and leadership emphasizes the intricacies of business models: revenues, costs, niches, leverage. But mental models are what allow organizations and their leaders to try not just to be the best at what everyone else can do, but to do things that only they can do — which, over time, shows others what it possible. They don’t accept the limitations, trade-offs, and middle-of-the-road sensibilities that define conventional wisdom. In other words, great leaders don’t just out-perform their rivals. They transform the sense of what’s possible in their fields.

That’s what makes icons like Roger Bannister so unforgettable — and so important[5] (to those who feel afflicted by Peter Principle syndrome or The Impostor Syndrome and the likes… .)

[1] Bannister Landy Miracle Mile 1954

[2] Anticipation and the Bannister Effect

[3] The 4-minute mile: Why some people achieve the impossible and others don’t

[4] The Powerful Lesson of 3:59.4

[5] What Breaking the 4-Minute Mile Taught Us About the Limits of Conventional ThinkingBill Taylor

The Eponymous Principles of Management – The ‘Super Mario’ Effect

One common characteristic of incompetent people, whether infested by Dunning-Kruger Effect, or even competent people, under the influence of the Impostor Syndrome, or not, usually, is that failing several times makes one realize when it can happen again. That fear of failure causes us to never try in the first place.

However, it is conclusively proven that the root cause is actually not the fear, but how we perceive the failure, i.e., generally we would not like to be seen having failed in the eyes of the others. This was borne out in an experiment conducted by Mark Rober, a former NASA engineer and Apple engineer, with more than 1.5 million followers on YT[1]. The experiment runs something like this:

In a simple computer game, one had to get the car across the maze by typical arranging the computer programming code like blocks.

The game had two versions – in one if you fail you do not lose any points and can try again, whereas in the second one, for every failure you lose five points, but you can try again, here, too. 50,000 people played the game. When the results of the two versions were analysed, it revealed a very significant trait of a human being.

From the total participants who chose not lose points, 68% succeeded in solving the puzzle. This group had made 12 attempts, on an average, before they quit. In comparison to this, from those participants who opted for a loss of five pints per failure, on 52% finally solved the puzzle. The average number of attempts that this group made before quitting was 5.

This went on confirm the famous Japanese saying, “Nana Korobi, Ya Oki’[2] – Fall down seven times, stand up eight. In other words, those try more, are likely to succeed more.

It was this experiment that helped Mark Rober to come up with what he calls as The ‘Super Mario’ Effect.[3]

However, before we appraise ourselves with The ‘Super Mario’ Effect, it may be in order to know briefly what this game Super Mario is all about.

This a console video game wherein Mario and Luigi, the two Italian plumbers, try to search Princess Toadstool from the evil King Bowser in the land of Mushroom Kingdom.  The game is based on a series of side-scrolling levels, each filled with enemy evil turtles. The levels take place in different settings, some in dungeons and some above ground, with fights against Bowser impersonators at the end of castle levels. Once the imposter is defeated, a Mushroom Kingdom resident informs Mario or Luigi that the princess is in another castle. The game is completed with the defeat of the true Bowser and the rescue of Princess Toadstool.[4]

If you are defeated in one Super Mario like game, you do not remain defeated, but take on the challenge once again, and again. Generally, you also remember what error you committed in the last game. So, you, consciously or unconsciously, try to avoid that mistake again. This mentality helps you to improve your score with every outing.

Mark Rober, in his TEDx talk, The Super Mario Effect – Tricking Your Brain into Learning More, places this simple revelation as what he calls as ‘life gamification’. In effect this gamification effects helps us to reframe all of the challenges and failures in our life into obstacles we can overcome

In his talk, @7.25 Mark Rober sums his idea of ‘life gamification’ as:

This concept of life gamification is more than just, like, “Have a positive attitude” or “Never give up”, because those sort of imply you’re having to endure against your true desire to quit. I feel like when you frame a challenge or a learning process in the way I’m describing [gamification] you actually want to do it. It feels natural to ignore the failures and try again, in the same way a toddler will want to get up and try and walk again, or in the same way you want to keep playing Super Mario Bros.

This simple concept of learning is named after the game ‘Super Mario’ because, the (kid) players keep playing this difficult game without the fear of losses because of the inherent fun of playing the game. In fact, Mark Rober submits that in order to indeed learn how to beat the failures, one should lose. Every failure helps you to be more committed to the success next time.

Here are nine of the best lines from Mark’s Tedx Talk, which has been viewed by over 5.8 million people, on how we can trick our brains into thinking about all forms of learning in the same way we think about a game.

  1. “The trick to learning more and having more success is finding the right way to frame the learning process.”
  2. “What if you just framed the learning process in such a way that you didn’t concern yourself with failure? How much more successful could you be? How much more could you learn?”
  3. “The focus and obsession is about beating the game, not about how dumb you might look. And as a direct result of that attitude—of learning from but not being focused on the failures—we got really good and we learned a ton in a really short amount of time.”
  4. “This is what I call The Super Mario Effect: Focusing on the princess and not the pits, to stick with a task and learn more.”
  5. “When you frame a challenge or a learning process in the way I’m describing, you actually want to do it. It feels natural to ignore the failures and try again in the same way a toddler will want to get up and try to walk again or in the same way you want to keep playing Super Mario Brothers.”

  1. “I really believe if you reframe the challenges, it will make all the difference. My approach is to sort of trick you into learning something through something cool.”
  2. “By reframing the learning process, the fear of failure is often taken off the table and learning comes more naturally.”
  3. “By shifting your focus to the princess and treating your life’s challenges like video games, you can trick your brain and actually learn more and see more success.”
  4. “Failing and failing and failing and eventually succeeding.”

Mark Rober’s Tedx Talk is an important addition to the growing body of research on why games are such an effective tool for learning and retaining information over the long-term. If you’re interested in delving deeper into this wave of emerging science, you can read the interview with Peter C. Brown, author of the bestselling book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.”[5]

[1] Mark Rober’s YT channel

[2] Fall down seven times, get up eight: The power of Japanese resilience

[3] The Super Mario Effect: A Psychological Trick to Help Achieve Success Painlessly

[4] Super Mario Bros

[5] 9 Best Lines From Mark Rober’s SUPER MARIO EFFECT TEDX Talk