S2E10 – The Trial of One-Five-Zero

Show Notes

A core foundation of business, online communities, and social networks is the concept of Dunbar’s Number: the suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. But recently there have been critiques in the scientific community as to the validity of the theory behind the number, as well as the number itself.

In this episode, Andy and Mon-Chaio delve into the research around Dunbar’s Number, both Dunbar’s original papers as well as the recently published critiques. They explore the possibility that Dunbar’s Number does not exist and, if true, what it means for all the business theory for technical organizations built on top of this concept.



Mon-Chaio: Welcome to another episode of The TTL Podcast. On this episode, Andy and I will be covering Dunbar’s Number, the research around Dunbar’s Number, and what modern research has said about actually a fairly old topic.

And the reason we picked Dunbar’s Number is because, well, we use it a lot in our episodes. And if you look throughout leadership podcasts, writings, research, many people end up referencing Dunbar’s Number, and when they reference it, it’s seen as almost a tautological truth that Dunbar’s number exists. But I think Andy was the first one that maybe ran into some writings that said, whoa, hold on a second, let’s re look at this. And so we thought it might be interesting to see what is the basis around Dunbar’s number? What does the research say about it these days as opposed to when it started? And is it still something that we can base our leadership strategies and tactics upon? And if not, what then?

As we often do, we try to start at the beginning, what the foundation of a particular idea is. And so I think Andy, you started with bringing up the original paper that Dunbar wrote that spawned this concept of Dunbar’s number. So maybe we should summarize that to our listeners to say what are the main points of that paper? And what was he trying to espouse or what was his hypothesis?

Andy: Right. So the paper is from R.I.M. Dunbar. He’s at the Department of Anthropology at University College, London. It is a paper published in 1992, so as Mon-Chaio, you said, it’s this idea that’s been around for a while. And the paper is called “Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates.” The general overview of the paper is that Dunbar was interested in this question of the size of primate groupings and what explains that size. He didn’t have particular hypothesis he was testing. He was looking for a correlation. So he took a bunch of data that was out there about different sizes of groups and primates. He looked into a few different variables. One was what he called an ecological hypothesis, which is the percentage of fruit in the diet: does the percentage of fruit correlate with the size of the group?

Mon-Chaio: Mhm.

Andy: He also looked at the neocortex size, as it relates to the size of the group. And his third thing that he looked at was what he called extractive foraging, which is the amount of time of pulling apart food. So this could be like getting termites out of a termite mound or something like, for a human, we might think about a pomegranate. If you’ve ever eaten a pomegranate from a full pomegranate, it takes a bit of effort to get to those seeds.

So he looked at all of those. For the two food-based ones, he didn’t find a correlation. For the neocortex size, he did find a correlation, and it was a statistically significant correlation.

Statistically significant is a very particular thing in statistics about what it really it means. I think quite often lay people, we hear statistically significant or it’s a significant finding and we think, oh, it’s really meaningful. And it’s, no, no, it’s just, it’s less likely to be random chance. That’s what it means.

Now, the thing was, he took a bunch of sources of data, and they didn’t quite match up. So he had to change his numbers a bit. And he had to work from means rather than individual data points. He had to aggregate up to genus rather than at the species level. Because he didn’t have it across species for everything. So, what he ended up with was this interesting idea in this original paper, I think is the best way of saying it. “Oh, well, this is an interesting correlation.” And so, from there now, you have to start backing up and figuring out, okay, does it mean anything? One of the things to always be careful with if you’re doing this kind of research is you’ll always find a correlation if you’re looking for one.

Mon-Chaio: His goal was to see if he could find a correlation. So he was looking for a correlation, and you’re right, you can always find a correlation if you’re looking for one. I would like to temper that a little bit by just saying that exploratory research is okay.

And trying to fit something in a correlation in order to see if there’s something interesting there I think is very valuable. I don’t think that there was any malice to what he was doing in terms of saying, oh, I’m trying to establish myself as an expert in this field I just created and so therefore I have to have data that fits this field.

I think that the intent and the questions that he posed were very interesting.

Andy: Yeah. So in Dunbar’s next paper, he expands on this idea, and this paper is the “Coevolution of neocortex size, group size and language in humans.” So the first paper did not have any data on humans. It was all sorts of other primates, but not humans. And so now he looks at humans. And he does it by saying, okay, I’ve created this model that’s been tested in primates. And in primates it, does have a basis. There is an interesting idea there. And the real question about “is this good science” comes to what does he do with it after that? Does try to test it in different ways?

And from my understanding is people have tested it in primates in different ways and it does seem to fit pretty well. There’s some outliers, there’s some oddities, but overall, it does seem like there’s something to this, and it has even a biological explanation that you can think of, which is that if I need to have more contact to more others of my species, I need a larger brain to keep track of it.

Mon-Chaio: Mmm hmm.

Andy: It’s purely a computational argument. I just need more computation, more memory, more storage to keep track of Mon-Chaio and his wife and my wife and my friend down the road. And I just need more brain to do that.

So in this next paper, he then took that model and he said, what happens if we plug in the human brain size? And that’s what he did. That’s where the number 150 comes from. It was actually 148.7, I think was the number that came out of the formula. But this is where that number comes from. 150 comes from, he plugged in the size of a kind of like average human neocortex, and there you go, 150.

Now this paper, I think, got a little bit more interesting because he even looked at that number and he said, that is absurd, because the way those groups are held together in primates is through what’s called grooming behavior. This is them taking care of each other and picking out the fleas and all of that. He said it was absurd because if humans, to support that size of group, if humans spent the same amount of time on grooming as other primates did, we would spend something like 40 to 60 percent of our time grooming each other. And he’s like, first, we don’t do that. And secondly, we wouldn’t be able to survive if that’s how much time we had to spend to keep group going.

And so then that goes into this idea that maybe this is where human language came from. Because language is a more efficient means of holding together groups. And there, we start getting the idea that you need a more efficient means of holding together groups to keep these larger group sizes going.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm. So, in the second paper around looking at the human neocortex size, he does, again, attempt to look through a bunch of human civilizations and human tribes to see whether the number 150 correlates.

Andy: Mm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: And in the paper, he posits that they do correlate fairly well to the mean size of these human communities.

The thing that I take out of both of these papers is a summary is his hypothesis that neocortex size governs social size, the size of a species social circle. Now whatever social circle may mean, we can talk through that because he never really defines what it means. And I think he actually has two mechanisms that he proposes for why that is, and you mentioned both of them. One is the ledger system, you simply have to remember everyone you want to maintain a social relationship with. Therefore, you need a larger brain to be able to do that. I must have a tiny brain because I can’t remember the person I met yesterday. I’m always looking at Kay and saying, what was that person’s name again?

Um, so that ledger system. The second was around grooming. And, what I found was not so much the interest around the act of picking fleas out of fur. I think Dunbar posits that there is an endorphin mechanism around grooming that when fleas are picked out of fur, it actually hits endorphin centers in the animal. And it gives them a pleasurable sensation. And so, he extends that to say, well, in human grooming, it doesn’t necessarily have to be picking fleas out of fur. But there’re activities which cause endorphin release to have pleasure and build trust within the species and within the social circle.

And he posits that there are certain types of language that can help do that, and that’s why language was developed, or not why language developed, but constraints on the path that language developed to help us maintain social unity.

Andy: Yeah, gossip. In fact, he calls it gossip. Others who then critique or extend on this call it gossip. Which is this idea that we spend a fairly large amount of our time gossiping. Talking about others and how they behave and what you need to know about them and those kinds of things.

The other thing that Dunbar hypothesized about primate connection building was that the time spent grooming was time in close connection to see how another member of your species behaved, and, in close proximity to several others where you could see how they behave as well. So it provided this chance to exchange information on behavior and how to behave in this group and how to be part of this group. And that language provided a much faster way of doing that.

The kind of like improved efficiency idea of language.

Mon-Chaio: That’s right, and in fact, let me read a quote from the paper: “Maintaining group cohesion is not simply a memory problem, though it is commonly misunderstood as such. Rather, it is one of predicting others’ future behavior under different conditions, for example, knowing how others will respond to one’s own actions, and being able to gauge the future reliability, or trustworthiness” … I think this is a really important term … “of other individuals.”

And if you’ve listened to our trust episodes, you will recall that we talk a lot about being able to predict future behavior as one of the foundations of being able to build trust.

Andy: Yep. And so, in that building of trust, this is then where the number 150, I think, is often interpreted to be, that you can build trust with that group of 150. And that as it gets larger than that, that starts to fall apart. And in fact, he makes the argument that this is the mean size. This is the average size.

This isn’t the maximum size.

Mon-Chaio: Mmm hmm..

Andy: And he hypothesizes that it’s the average size, but it’s probably close to the maximum size, because you won’t see many that are much larger than this, that haven’t somehow split apart and created a new group of less than 150, and then they’ll kind of work their way back up to 150.

Mon-Chaio: Right. And beyond these two papers, even in popular literature, people would publish articles like, look, if you take a look at friends. On Facebook, you get to this number around 150. I believe he originally even did, or maybe it was one of his follow up studies, where he looked at Christmas cards.

Andy: Yeah, it was a follow up study.

Mon-Chaio: And he basically said, look, if we look at the number of relationships that people send Christmas cards to every year, that set for every person is also around this 150 number. And so this number has propagated, and I think for me, if you think about the hypothesis that he thinks about, this idea of the ledger system, this memory constraint problem, this idea of building trust, it seems very reasonable that there’s some limit and that the limits are constrained somewhat, or in a large part, by biology.

But there are some people that have looked at it and said, well, whoa, hold on, there are some issues with just using this 150 number blindly. Right, Andy?

Andy: Yes. And let’s get into a little bit of how he supported this 150 number because, as you mentioned earlier, he pulled out a bunch of different ways that it shows up. One study he did was on the Christmas cards. He also looked at data from a survey done in 1068 in England called the Domesday Book. And that was a census of the entire country. And from that, someone came up with, the number of about 150 was the size of a village. And you have the archaeological evidence that the size of settlements in Neolithic times was maybe in the figure of 150 to 200. You also get that there are religious communities called the Hutterites, who try to limit the size of their communities to about 150. You have a more modern example of the Gore Corporation, they make GORE-TEX , that they have, before he published his number, they came to their own conclusion that they should limit the size of their facilities to about 140, 150 people.

And so …

Mon-Chaio: Oh, I didn’t realize that was before he published his study.

Andy: Yeah, I didn’t realize that either, but they actually referenced it as this is before he ever published his study. And so these are all things that they take as support that this 150 number exists, this general size is showing up all over the place.

Mon-Chaio: That sounds great, Andy. So, why are we even talking about it? It’s obviously supported anecdotally and by research hypothesis.

Andy: Right, so let’s get into why would we question this? One reason to question it is he chose a particular way of finding that number through this extrapolation. Now it turns out, one paper, they used several other ways of finding a trend line. If you use different methods of finding the trend line of a set of data, you come up with wildly different numbers. All the way from, let’s see what did they come up with? Something like from 60 to about 200-something?

Mon-Chaio: Right, yeah. And their confidence levels were very broad as well.

Andy: Yeah. So the 95 percent confidence interval on this number that Dunbar himself created, the 150, the 95 percent confidence interval, uh, let’s explain what that is a little bit. The 95 percent confidence interval is 95 percent of samples taken from this population you would expect to fall within this range. That range is 100 to 231.

So kind of a, kind of a big range. And if you’re trying to do this based off of how do we optimize the size of our organization, there’s a big difference between saying you’re gonna limit your sizes to a hundred, and you’re gonna limit your sizes to 230. There’s a bit of a difference there.

Mon-Chaio: Absolutely. Huge difference.

Andy: There is another part which is the R-squared of his number was reasonable, but not so high that you should take it as a complete explanation. It was 0.76. So generally that’s referenced as people will say, oh, that’s 76 percent of, neocortex size explains group size. Okay.

76 percent is pretty reasonable, but it’s still 25 percent is unexplained. And with such a wide confidence interval, there’s a lot going on in there that’s not just our brain size.

Mon-Chaio: Right.

Andy: And I think that takes us to, to me, what I found is the fundamental thing that people took exception to. Basically people were coming down to, hey, look, humans, because of our social structures and our culture. are much more than just our neocortex size. We’ve built up all sorts of hierarchical structures and external memory means and all sorts of things that lets us go far beyond the constraints of our brain.

Which I think Dunbar actually completely acknowledges. He’s like, well, that’s what language is. And he also acknowledges the hierarchical structure in his second paper, he has a thing about different sizes in that, which then gets into the second argument against what he’s come up with. Or I shouldn’t say argument against. Most of what I found was cautions. Don’t take this blindly. There is actually a lot of nuance to it.

Mon-Chaio: Right.

Andy: And that was, what do you even mean by relationship? Because he doesn’t define it really very well. It’s very broad, and it’s ill defined, because he’s taken all of this data from all these other sources that were using different methods and different means to talk about whatever they were doing. So it’s not even clear. 150 what?

Mon-Chaio: Right. And I think those are all great and interesting things to consider. So, we’ll start with the memory one. I think it makes a lot of anecdotal sense, just thinking about it, that humans are not simply constrained by neocortex size. We now have computers, and you mentioned Dunbar himself even says language. There’s this thing called kinship language, where they say humans have invented this language and you can say he’s a cousin and therefore within a whole broad stroke you can remember a bunch of people are cousins and that occupies less space in your brain than perhaps a primate would having to recognize each and every face.

Andy: Yeah. Well and by knowing that someone’s a cousin, you immediately know that you share a kinship relationship, as these things were called. And so you know a fair amount about where is this person possibly from? What kind of upbringing did they have? That kind of stuff.

Mon-Chaio: Right, so shortcuts in essence to allow us with one neocortex size to maintain more relationships than perhaps the model would allow coming from primates. Because this model again was generated or trained if you will via primate data That makes sense to me.

The second part also makes sense to me, that humans can derive not just shortcuts for memory in order to maintain these relationships, but they can create things like culture.

We’ve talked a lot about culture on this podcast. And they can create these types of cultural rituals and symbols – one paper referenced this idea of totemic worship – in order to be able to keep closer relationships by building trust through culture. Again, we’ve talked a lot about this in this podcast itself, around how culture is super important to maintaining cohesion.

And that is uniquely a human thing. This ability to use culture to maintain group cohesion that primates also do not have. And so anecdotally, from these types of things, you can consider, well, the model on primate brains may say this 150 number, but it feels like humans have a lot of other tools to go beyond this 150 number, if that is the number that’s predicted by the primate model.

Andy: Yeah. And one of the questions that came up with this 150, de Ruiter, in a paper, kind of brought up this idea that, okay, you say the limit’s 150. Does that mean that if I’ve reached my 150 and now I meet someone new, I have to forget about someone?

Mon-Chaio: That’s what I do.

Andy: Yeah. Well, I forget about people all the time, so maybe that is what’s happening.

But, but if you think about it in terms of like, we talk about software companies and software organizations and you’ve got these teams, does that mean – this is now me extrapolating from their argument – that as I get older, and I learn more relationships, that I have to work in smaller and smaller companies, or on a smaller and smaller team? Because I’ve built up this history of 30 or 40 years of relationships, and I don’t want to drop all of them, so that my only choice is to still be effective, is to work in a smaller company where there’s fewer relationships that I have to build.

Mon-Chaio: Right, your work relationships now have to assume a smaller percentage of that total 150 number because your personal relationships are assuming a larger percentage of that 150 number.

Andy: Yeah, yeah! Is that an implication of this relationship size thing?

Mon-Chaio: Well, and I think on the face of it, of course, that seems absurd. This concept that a human is born … let’s not say born because your neocortex is not fully developed when you’re born and also you have no language and you’re just basically I call you a potato. You’re just a potato when you’re born.

Andy: Slug, slug. You’re still an animal, you’re in the animal kindom.

Mon-Chaio: Okay, that’s funny. I mean, you are pretty moist and like, so umm, but let’s say from full development, uh, I think whatever, age 25, your brain is fully developed, maybe a little bit later, that you have this book of 150, and you have to manage the ins and outs, and that’s how much you have for the rest of your life.

I think that is quite absurd on the face of it, right?

Andy: Yeah, so it becomes this question of, well, what is the relationship? What exactly are we talking about here?

I found a quote from this de Ruiter paper: “Dunbar’s idea of relationship, which we could refer to as ‘grooming relationship’, prioritizes the face-to-face contact of agents – a factor that precludes many types of relationship with transactional elements. Other types of relationship require tracking of transactions without face-to-face contact, placing burdens on our neocortices, for which accounting is also needed. A more inclusive term might be transactional relationships. In this way, such relationships might be viewed as something occurring between entities rather than independently of them. Such a transactional approach makes no presumption of the positive nature of those interactions as grooming does; meanwhile, it also notes the necessity of tracking transactions and the requirement of reciprocation.”

Now, a key point that they alluded to in there is that means your enemies are part of this 150.

Mon-Chaio: Mmm hmm.

Andy: You need to know how to act around them in some ways more than you need to know how to act around the people you have good relationships with. So that kind of like, this concept that this 150 is that good side of your relationship, well, that can’t be true, because the other side, the troublesome side, also has to take that neocortex capacity.

Mon-Chaio: Mmm hmm.

Andy: So, the idea is that Dunbar’s definition of these things reaches a big problem when you get to, what is it we’re even talking about, because almost every case, Dunbar will respond saying, well, but those aren’t the relationships I’m talking about.

Mon-Chaio: Right.

Andy: Which then brings up, once again, what are the relationships we’re talking about?

Mon-Chaio: Right, and Dunbar himself mentions that, they’re “quality relationships.” That’s how he defines it. But, again, he has a very difficult time defining what quality relationship means, and so I think that’s a key part of some of the critiques of his work. And I think a lot of these critiques do make sense.

So what do we take from all of this, Andy? There’s a lot of stuff that we base on Dunbar’s Number. A recent one that we talked about was from the book Team Topologies …

Andy: Mmm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: … who bases their model very heavily on Dunbar’s Number. There are companies like Gore, like other companies, who base their team sizes on Dunbar’s Number.

Are we saying that those models are no longer valid? That they should re look at their foundations and the solidness of their foundations? What do we take away from this?

Andy: The thing that I take away from it is the 150 number seems to have struck a chord. It seems intuitively, yes, there is a limit. And 150 seems reasonable? For me personally, it actually seems kind of high. I have a hard enough time keeping track of like five people.

Um, but I think what in Team Topologies they talk about, which is cognitive load, keeping that in mind makes a lot of sense to me. And saying it is much less reasonable to expect that a team of 800 is going to be able to be as cohesive as a team of 50 to me, it just gives a little bit of support to that.

I think what I’ve taken from this is, the exact number is not the thing to pay attention to. It’s the quality of the relationships that seem to be able to be built in that group.

Mon-Chaio: That makes sense to me, and I come at it about the same way. I think the exact number itself the number is quite fluid. I think the models around it and there’s this concept of 3x, right? You have groups of 5 and then 3x, the next group of 15, and that those are some sort of boundary, or some sort of edge cases where as you move up 3x in group size, you have different types of relationships.

That anecdotally seems very reasonable, even though I don’t think I looked into the 3x number at all. Did you?

Andy: I did, I did, I found the paper, and I read it, and it’s interesting, and basically it’s a similar thing to what Dunbar did was, hey, we got a bunch of data, we think this could be interesting. And it came off of in Dunbar’s paper where he extended the model to people, he said, hey, there also seems to be this thing of three different group sizes. Now, the 3X paper, they said, well, that’s interesting. And what they did was they took a whole bunch of different, data on group sizes, and then did some signal analysis to figure out, is there a pattern in there? Is there a signal in that noise? And this is where that 3x number came from, is they found, I think it’s harmonic, the math was far beyond what I’m familiar with, but it was like harmonic frequencies in that data that kind of lined up, and they’re like, oh, it’s about three, so, 3x.

Mon-Chaio: .Interesting. Interesting. There’s some scientific basis for that 3x. And I think the anecdotal basis resonates to me as well. But similar to your takeaway, Andy, it’s less the number for me. What I pulled away from all of this was getting back to the basis of his hypothesis about how that number comes about that I think was really interesting and I think is what people should keep in mind.

So, I do think that there’s something around this idea of ledgership, transactionalness, of being able to keep things in mind. Now we have more ways to keep things in mind, right? Like my address book is not 150 people long, it’s like thousands of people long. Some of these people, I don’t even remember who they are. So there is this concept of being able to keep all these people in memory at once, whatever memory means. And I think that’s a valid thing around building relationships.

So I think that hypothesis makes a lot of sense. I also think the grooming hypothesis makes a lot of sense. This concept that in order to build relationships, you have to create trust and you have to create community, social cohesion. That’s what builds relationships. And I do really believe that there is a time factor to that and that you are time bound in how you do it.

I don’t think you are as time bound as you are if you were a primate without access to computers. But I do think even in humans, you are quite time bound because remember, it’s not just all language that allows you to build relationships. It’s a specific type of language. It’s language that creates endorphins that hits into these centers that allow you to build trust.

And so, to go back to some of the terminology we’ve used in this podcast, this is not transmittive communication, this is cultural communicated. And how often you use cultural communication is what time bounds you on how well you can create these relationships. And then the other part of it is then using your other aspects like culture building in order to create trusted relationships.

I do think that humans have a better ability to do that, but I still do agree that there are bounds. Is that bound 150? I think it is in some cases, I think it’s not in some cases, but the concept that still resonates for me is that there is a bound, and the bound is through these mechanisms around ledger keeping, grooming, and these culture building things, and that’s what you have to be cognizant of as you build larger and larger groups.

Andy: Yeah, I remember as I was reading the paper on the co evolution of neocortical size, his section describing why language helps, this idea of time efficiency in cultural communication and in bonding. To me, actually of all of his stuff, that, right there, that seems like the more meaningful theory to be thinking about: how can you create a more and more efficient mechanism for maintaining these group bonds that are needed, so that either you have a smaller group that holds itself together much more tightly and has time to do other things than group maintenance …

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andy: … or you can maintain a much larger group because the peer number is very useful. And I think in a business, that’s a big thing to think about. Like, we want to spend our time, or the businesses want us to spend our time creating software.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andy: Not gossiping.

Mon-Chaio: Right.

Andy: And I don’t want to sound like I’m being like, oh yeah, we need to be highly efficient. No, it’s, we can get the same thing for less time invested. And I think as people in a leadership position, coming up with, okay, what are other mechanisms we have to maintain this group cohesiveness of this group and identity? We have our biological constraints and just physical constraints. So what can we do within that that helps us do this even better, so that we can do that other thing? Because if you spend too much time on it, as he points out, the group can’t continue to survive.

Mon-Chaio: So what tactics, are there any tactics that we can think about presenting to our listeners around this? Or maybe not tactics, maybe we’re just doing final thoughts around how do we think about using Dunbar’s Number moving forward?

… in a more tactical sense.

Andy: In a tactically not very tactical sense, how do we think tactically using this number non-tactically? For myself, I think it’s what I said before. I think it’s an interesting number. It’s an interesting concept. The multiples of three, I think is a great way of thinking about it. But to me, it just reinforces the idea that rather than paying attention to the absolute numbers, which I think would lead to management-by-dashboard, I think you call it Mon-Chaio.

Mon-Chaio: Yep, yep.

Andy: Pay attention to what is happening, how the group seems to actually be cohesive or not. What are these fission fusion groups that show up? Can you make better use of fission fusion within your larger group? That kind of thing.

What about you?

Mon-Chaio: I think mine would be very similar. Again, for me, it’s not the number itself that is important. It’s around how is your group operating that supports either a smaller number or a larger number. So, are you a group that can function well on low trust? There are groups that can function relatively well on calculus-based trust. If you function well on calculus-based trust, you can probably have a larger group size than if you require identity-based trust.

How well do you build culture in your 1500-person group? Do they all identify with the same rituals and not just that they all do scrum, but real rituals, right? Rituals, the way we talk about it in culture building. Do they have the same symbols that they all recognize? Do they use the same language? So are they culturally bound?

If so, if you have a very strong culture, you can probably support a larger group. If you’re not that great at creating culture and your culture is not that strongly permeative, then you’re probably looking at a smaller group.

Andy: So it really down to that efficiency of the cultural transmission and the bond creation.

Mon-Chaio: Correct. And then lastly, touching on to the grooming behavior, it’s the same type of thing. What are the processes in which you have that allow people to communicate quote-unquote gossip, or do other cultural communications that reinforce culture or have that endorphin-releasing, group bonding behavior? If your weekly meetings are really good at that, then you can perhaps have a larger group. If your weekly meetings are sparsely attended, and people mostly have cameras off and are doing work in the background, you probably can only support a smaller group.

That’s the tactic that I would present, is to think about the mechanisms around this number, and the strength of the mechanisms that you have within your control, and being honest with yourself about how strongly you wield them, to think about what is the right size.

And then I would say lastly, to realize that there is a size for your particular situation and it is not just, well, there is no size and here’s a group of a thousand and they’re going to be great and they’re going to have high trust.

Andy: It’s not whatever your budget can support.

Mon-Chaio: It’s not whatever your budget can support. It’s not the number of performance reviews your manager can do within a four-week time span because that’s your review cycle. Or any of that sort of thing. There is more to it than that.

Andy: And it’s also not however many reports you have to have to get your next promotion.

Mon-Chaio: Do you hear that, Big Tech? Andy a really big, a really good point.

Andy: Alright, I think that’s it then, Mon-Chaio.

Mon-Chaio: I think that’s it. Well, I enjoyed this episode, Andy. I think, this was an interesting one for me. I don’t think we’ve done an episode quite like this before.

Andy: I don’t think we’ve done one that delved into such technical papers. The one about the 3x relationship, I have to admit that I just skimmed the mathematics of that. I did not understand it. The Dunbar stuff, I could pretty much follow. I thought it was really interesting, like the mathematics, plus also the hypothesis building, the theory building, all of that.

I loved this. This is the stuff I really like doing. Which is why I had a meetup group on this for a little while. But …

And in actuality, this is part of the reason why we like doing this podcast and how we think we’re a little bit different than everyone else . We like to dive into the details. We like to dive into the science and question ourselves and question the foundations of our own beliefs, to see if we can become better and have better foundations for how we go about doing our day to day work in leadership.

So if you all like this type of content, if you all enjoyed this episode, please go to your favorite podcatching platform, like, subscribe, give us a comment. We would love to engage with you. You can also email us at hosts@thettlpodcast.com and let us know what you thought about this episode or future episodes and topics you would like us to present.

But until next time, be kind and stay curious.


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