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Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. ISBN 0316316962 (alternate, search).
Hardcover - 279 pages (February 2000)

In this book, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the idea that for a group of up to 150 members, there is a "community memory" that works such that either you know how to find something out/do something, or you know the person who does. Beyond 150, you no longer know whom to turn to, and need to go through intermediaries, and a communication breakdown occurs. Research in cognition supports this, primarily Robin Dunbar's [work] written up in Grooming, Gossip, and The Evolution of Language.

See also [Infectious Ideas: An Interview with Malcolm Gladwell], [Book Blog]


is there a page in Meatball that talks about the "number 150 dynamic", or some other number but same concept?

Do you mean CommunityMayNotScale? By the way, the scalar "150" may be empirically true for the circumstances which the author tested against, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter. It's probably the point of inflection in the exponential complexity curve (cf. the ConnectedGraphSquaringProblem).

It might be explained by anthropology, perhaps people during most time of the human race history lived in communities not exceeding 150 participants.

Well, since I live in a community about that size, I can share this. Most people in a community, regardless of size, have 10-15 friends who they feel comfortable asking for advice. So, suppose I want to sell a car. I can ask my 10-15 friends if they know anyone who wants a '98 Accord. Now, each of them has 10-15 friends who, if they are seeking out a car, will ask them if anyone is selling something suitable. So you have somewhere between 100-225 (actually less because of overlap) people who you can connect with informally to complete the transaction. It doesn't usually work through a third layer, though, because the word doesn't get out -- that's human nature (an exception is families and other close relationships). Also, if you stay in the same community over the course of years, you can get to know about 100-200 people by name. Hard to know more than that many names unless you have training or unusually good memory skills. -Steve

The late Joe Girard, one of the greatest car salesmen, wrote in his book that the average person knows about 250 people, because that's about how many people can be invited to their funeral (based on talks he had had with funeral directors) and that if you, as a salesman, make a customer mad or unhappy, that customer can bad mouth you to 250 people. So here, Girard's number is 250.

In In Search of Excellence the authors note that the excellent companies have discovered that operational units - a factory, a department, or some other group of people working together - do get economies of scale up to a certain number, after that they become bound up with bureaucracies. The estimates range from 200 to 400 people. Some of these companies routinely split departments when they get above the critical number (which they have discovered over time is the correct figure for them) because they get better results if the department or factory is of a good size but is not too large.

So the idea that there is a small number of people that work for certain contexts has substantial anecdotal evidence.


See also BookShelved:TheTippingPoint


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