This was first aired around a decade ago by Dr Stevens as he taught a business module at his university.
Imagine the image is a hurricane. An inverted pyramid of destruction. At the top of the hurricane you can see the principle that everyone is doing “it”, whatever “it” might be. In Parliamentary terms, it could be money to MP’s for lobbying influence. And no-one is taking action because the public is unaware of the fact that everyone is doing it.
A few people begin to recognise that it is being done and that it’s not in the common good, so awareness is raised slightly with a few select instigators.
The more people get to know and share it, the wider the audience becomes. Eventually, this causes an outcry from those select few until such a time as the media gets hold of it and publishes the fact that “everyone is doing it”.
The public is now aware!
By this time, a few clever people have stopped doing it, and only the slow learners or the late-comers are still involved. Much to the public’s chagrin. Their outcry helps curb those latecomers from continuing, and might even cause debate in the House.
Eventually the public outcry wins and the greater common good is reached with the subtle whittling down of this particular nefarious activity near the point where only one or two people in the country are still getting away with it, but those in power are fully aware of who it is, and the public will never know. But the greater good has won out! The number of people doing it is directly proportionate to the level of public knowledge about the activity – The Stevens Principle.