In sales there is a concept called “a sales funnel”. It looks like an upside-down pyramid, similar to this:
What this funnel represents is the journey of a person from being just a lead (someone you are interested in, or may be interested in you) to a sale (someone who bought your product). Naturally, there are more people who are leads than those that actually buy. Along the way, they “drop off” for various reasons (not really interested in your product, don’t have budget, etc.).
Funnels are measured in stages and conversion rates – that is, what are the chances of someone to go from stage A to B (let’s say 50%), and then from B to C (let’s say 30%), and so on. Also, due to the nature of mathematics, you can easily calculate the chances of them going from stage A to E, by multiplying the percentages (50% * 30%, etc.). There is a general notion that you can improve the conversion rates (chances of a person going from one stage to another) by taking a closer look at those who do convert vs those who don’t, and take corrective action. Corrective action includes trying to find more of those who do convert or changing the way you interact with potential customers. Experience shows that changing the way you interact with them is a much better way of achieving higher conversion rates.
Now, many aspects in life are represented as pyramids. For example wealth (richest at the top, poorest at the bottom), academic achievement (professors at the top, uneducated at the bottom), etc. Here is an illustration of such a pyramid in biotechnology:
What if we were to put the pyramids upside down and treat them as a funnel? The chances of an individual to get from poor, to middle class, to upper class, to billionaire? This is a tricky example, as many people are born into a certain stage mid-way through the funnel, such as people being born in the middle class.
Can we somehow do the same analysis we do with a sales funnel? Can we figure out how to increase the chances of people moving from poor, to middle class? Similarly, from uneducated, to undergraduate, and all the way to professor?
It’s possible that how far we get down the funnel (or up the pyramid) can be modified by figuring out how to better handle people at each level. Maybe looking at the pyramid as a funnel and taking corrective action will result in better outcomes than simply giving up and attributing it all to pedigree.