We all know that small teams are typically more agile, more flexible, and more adaptable and hence able to make decisions and take action more quickly than larger teams. This can be especially important in fast-paced environments where rapid response is key.
But by far the most significant reason for the success of small teams has to do with Metcalfe's Law and the structure of the human mind 🧠
Metcalfe's law says that every time you add a new user to a network, the number of connections increases proportionally to the square of the number of users. In other words, a network's value increases exponentially with size.
This applies brilliantly to digital networks (i.e. telecommunications or technology industry), but what does it have to do with organizations and teams? 🤔
The structure of our mind is that it can't really handle very large numbers of relationships. Scientists like Robin Dunbar have told us for decades that there are approximately only 5 people we can have tight relationships with.
Because of this, the most progressive companies are structured as networks of teams, rather than hierarchical pyramids. These networks have no (or few) middle managers. They feature highly autonomous teams where members take care of communication, coordination, and contracting themselves.
But as Metcalfe's Law shows, when there are no managers, teams must be small enough so that members do not get overloaded with communication and information. Because our brains just can't handle that 🤷♂️
That’s why sports teams are rarely bigger than 15 people. That’s why companies like Valve have no hierarchy, and yet managed to redefine entire industries and become one of the most successful video game companies in the world.
Because a quick small team will beat a big slow team at any time.