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Size matters

Simon Sinek rightly says "People are always more important than numbers".

But there is a number that remains important and everyone should care about, the size of your team.

Alone we go faster together we go further.

We are all familiar with the saying. To go from dream to reality, our ideas need the support and skills of others. That is usually why we form teams: more inspiration, more intellectual and physical resources, more energy, and skills. But bringing people on is a delicate exercise that is, like most things in life, all about balance. Not only do we want to make sure we have the same vision, but we also want to keep a safe and inspiring environment where each personality can thrive without overshadowing others.

So if we do go further together, we might need to limit that number.

The Ringelmann Effect.

According to French engineer Maximilien Ringelmann's findings in the early 1900s, there comes a point when adding more members to a team not only makes people less motivated but also makes it more difficult to cooperate and communicate, ultimately decreasing productivity.

Dunbar's number

Beyond the business aspect, there is the human relationship aspect. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, theorized about the "cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person" - This theory is known as the Dunbar's number not only set a "limit" of 150 as the number of relationships a human can maintain but also breaks down other levels of relationships into size groups.

The size of your team will impact everyone's personal well-being as well as your productivity. That is why it is not something to disregard.

What is the Magic Number?

The bigger the team, the more complex the ecosystem and the more fragile the balance. Closely following Dunbar's breakdown, In The Art of Gathering, Pryia Parker identifies "magic numbers" for different kinds of group interactions.

  • Six and under

Up to six, you have yourself the perfect size to create intimacy between people. There is time in meetings for everyone to share ideas and feedback, it is easy to get to know each other and not as intimidating to speak up in front of everyone. It is easy to maintain one conversation engaging everyone.

  • Twelve to fifteen

This is still a small enough group to have trust and intimacy and it brings a bit more diversity of opinions.

  • Around thirty

It makes it harder to know everyone well and smaller groups start to form. It brings more diversity and energy but it also demands spending more time making sure everyone is up to date and still alinaligneded on a common vision.

  • Up to a hundred and fifty

There is still a feeling of belonging but there is a need to create subteams for deeper collaboration and greater productivty as the communication system become more complex and often much more hierarchical as well.

Communication is key

There are a lot of theories out there about a team's perfect size. Most o them advising to stay within 4-8 people. At the end of the day, it all depends on the goal/ purpose of the team as well as the kind of and level of collaboration needed.

Like in all types of relationships, it often comes down to the quality of your communication. A great way to visualize the simplicity or complexity of the communication within your team is through these shapes designed by Lighthouse.


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