When you need to come up with a big idea or address a critical problem, the more people you can throw at it the better, right? More brains must equal more ideas - although there is a big case to say that this mindset is very wrong.
The problem with groupthink approaches is that they very rarely deliver better ideas. The more people involved in the project or meeting, the more complicated briefings become, and the more hand holding is required to get people up to speed. In turn, more time is required to review the output from each individual, and you can get bogged down providing additional feedback.
The small group principle is based on a simple insight - everyone in the room should be there for a reason. Either you are critical to the meeting, or you should be off doing other work as opposed to wasting time and slowing down the project. The key here is simplicity.
Steve Jobs was famous for ruthlessly surveying a room before he began any meeting and throwing anyone out he felt shouldn't be there. He believed the key to Apple's success was to have small groups of smart and highly creative people working together, and based on the organisations success he was probably on to something.
Which brings us to Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Bezo's famously has a rather unusual management style, and one of the equally famous stories revolves around this idea of small groups. Introducing the model of the 'Two Pizza Team'. From the Wall Street Journal:
"One former executive recalled that, at an offsite retreat where some managers suggested that employees should start communicating more with each other, Mr. Bezos stood up and declared, "No, communication is terrible!"
He wanted a decentralized, even disorganized company where independent ideas would prevail over groupthink. He instituted, as a company-wide rule, the concept of the "two-pizza team"—that is, any team should be small enough that it could be fed with two pizzas."
So the next time you are getting a bunch of people together to tackle a problem, have a think if everyone in the room should be there and could comfortably share a few pizzas. You might just be giving yourself a better chance at some great ideas.
This post continues my series on mental models.