Dunbar’s number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Although it varies, the number is generally accepted to be around 150.
Those who are proponents of Dunbar’s number believe that groups in excess of 150 often need more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a sense of stability and cohesion.
A number of companies have taken Dunbar’s number into consideration when designing offices. The Swedish tax authority build their organisational structure around this concept of a maximum of 150 people to one office. If they need more people, they have to put them into a different office.
What about your Dunbar number in a specific social setting?
Where’s the point where forgetfulness, overwhelm, or anxiety kick in?
And how much does it change based on the location or situation?
- Is it 6 for dinner, 10 for drinks?
- 3 tables of 8?
- In the round, or standing room only?
- Hosted or self-serve?
- Tune-in online, tune-out IRL?
- Maybe the more the merrier if it’s your favourite team on TV?
- And an hour and done, or stay up forever?
As audiences demand more tailored and personalised experiences, there’s something here for any designer, organiser or producer who’s putting something together for a group of people.
What would be possible if you could always find the sweet spot for each and every person you’re building for, no matter what situation?
Because everyone’s got a number.