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Since time immemorial, people have been searching for a fabled key to ‘success’. Whether it’s personal fulfilment or commercial triumph you’re after, there has been endless research and discussion into the nature of success.

Much of this research has taken a psychological or economic approach to finding the key, and rarely goes beyond the hypothetical stage. But now, physicist Albert-László Barabási has applied scientific principles in an attempt to discover the empirical laws that govern success – if, indeed, there are any.

Barabasi and his team have published their findings in a book, The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success, and Barabasi himself recently published an excerpt from the book on the TED Ideas website.

In essence, he has boiled down the contributing factors of success into a formula: S = Qr. The degree of success for a given product, scientific paper, artwork, or other endeavour, denoted “S,” is broken down into two components: the essentially random quality of the underlying idea, symbolized by “r,” and the ability of the creator behind the project to actually bring ideas in a given field to fruition, which Barabási calls the “Q-factor.”

So, Success equals the quality of an idea (r) and the creator’s ability to bring that idea to fruition (Q). The two constituent parts are equally as important, and Karabasi draws on the career of Steve Jobs to illustrate this. Jobs is known today as the tech guru who changed the world, but he had a string of failed products prior to the revolutionary success of the iPhone.

With these products – such as the G-4 Cube – Jobs clearly retained the Q-factor vital to seeing an idea through to execution. But its eventual failure, and that of his other products that flopped, shows the vitality of the ‘r’ factor – the essential quality of an idea. Sometimes, you have to wonder whether you should, as well as whether you could.
When world leaders from the public and private sector convene at Davos in 2020, ideas will be exchanged in an open debate on how to achieve a prosperous world for current and future societies, specifically on how the private sector can aid governments and international institutions tackle growing disenchantment against ‘economic elites’.  With some of the world’s most prominent and successful business leaders and politicians attending, there’ll be no shortage of the ‘Q-Factor’ – here’s hoping there’s enough of the ‘r-factor’ to match.

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