An eponymous law refers to a prediction or observation which is credited towards a specific person. Eponymous, although perhaps best known as REM’s 1988 compilation album, actually refers to someone who gives their name to a discovery, place or idea. Perhaps, the best known Eponymous law in the technology industry is that of Moore’s law which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every 24 months. Although these observations are often referred to as “laws,” there are popular exceptions. For example, Occam’s razor is a well known scientific principle that when two explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the simplest full explanation is preferable. Another well known observation is the Pareto Principle which states that for many phenomena 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes.
Below are a few additional examples of Eponymous Laws from the computer hardware, software and networking industry:
- Amara’s law —We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.
- Metcalfe’s law — In communications and network theory, states that the value of a system grows as approximately the square of the number of users of the system.
- Reed’s law – the assertion of David P. Reed that the utility of large networks, particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network.
- Wirth’s law — Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster.
- Gates’ law – the speed of commercial software generally slows by fifty percent every 18 months thereby negating all the benefits of Moore’s Law.
Technology vendors should leverage these laws and observations in their marketing approaches. Telecommunications vendors might embrace Metcalfe or Reed’s law. Virtually any company that is introducing new technology innovations could reference Amara’s law as a justification for long term investments. However, there will undoubtedly be scenarios in which none of the existing eponymous laws apply to your market sector. In such a scenario, I would encourage you to create your own. Of course, the law will not be taken seriously by the PhDs in the Silicon Valley community. However, such eponymous laws can be quite effective in illustrating concepts for investors, analysts, partners, customers and employees.
What to create a law for?
Eponymous laws are better used to describe technological phenomenon rather than economic principles. In my opinion, economic principles are better described by adding a “nomics” suffix to the industry term. For example, Don Tapscoff and Anthony D Williams coined the term Wikinomics to describe the web 2.0 phenomenon.
What should the scope of the law be?
Don’t create a law that only applies to your specific company. Such a principle will be quickly dismissed as marketing hype. Create a law that is applicable to your market segment or, if possible, adjacent or similar sectors. A good eponymous law should be able to be used by your key competitors as well as your company. But won’t your competitors then take credit for the law? Not, if you name it properly.
Who to name the law after?
There are lots of choices. You could name the law after one of the founders who started your company. Another favorite of mine is to name the law after a non-executive in one of the technology groups such as front-line programmer or systems administrator who happened upon an important observation one day. Everyone loves a story about the little guy who was recognized for a big discovery. Some might choose to name a law after the current CEO or a venture capitalist involved with funding the company. However, I think most people would discredit those individuals unless they are well-known within the industry as thought leaders. Your current CTO is probably a better choice if you are going to select an executive.