150-Person Work Teams Are Dead

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell cited the “Rule of 150.” The rule states that 150 is the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a “genuinely efficient work relationship.” At that size, orders can be implemented and unruly behavior controlled on the basis of personal loyalties and direct contact.

“With larger groups this becomes impossible,” Gladwell said. He also notes that 150 is the ideal standard size of a U.S. military operating unit.

But over 16,000 people are actively producing Wikipedia. 250,000 people contribute to Slashdot. 140,000 developers are building applications and businesses using the Amazon tools. And thousands of programmers have contributed to Linux.

So what’s going on here?

I don’t care what size your organization is, there are always more smart people outside enterprise boundaries than there are inside. Opening up your organization to these experts will increase your ability to innovate, to do R&D and to gather user feedback. Such fluid and highly virtual teams are the future, with people working from remote locations rather than in a big office infrastructure.

So where’s the Buzz? Smart Buzz Marketers are realizing that the wave of Web 2.0 tools is enabling better teaming. And marketing people are leading the charge in harnessing the power of these teams for better R&D, better customer feedback and greater innovation!

For more on this topic, don’t miss my podcast with Don Tapscott co-author of Wikinomics coming up this Thursday!

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