Throughout human history, it seems that around 150 is the number of meaningful relationships any human can maintain. Oxford University’s anthropology professor Robin Dunbar discovered this number by studying monkey groups and extrapolating that number to match the human brain’s capacity. Understanding why this is can help you optimize your ability to manage your team, your business, and even your social media feed.
In this episode, we discuss Dunbar’s number and its implications for our personal and business relationships. Our social brain maxes out around 150 for loved ones, close friends, friends, and so on, but we can maintain relationships with acquaintances and familiar faces for up to 1,500. For those of you with thousands of social media relationships, this might sound crazy. However, if you take a deeper dive, you will likely find a similar number within that range amongst these online connections when it comes to meaningful relationships.
Key Ideas to Improve your Customer Experience
From our ancestral hunter-gatherers to military troops to the number of people on your Christmas-Card list, the number of relationships hovers around 150. However, this number breaks down further into smaller groups, like five loved ones, 15 good friends, 50 friends, and 150 meaningful contacts. The concept goes beyond 150 as well. Many people have up to 500 acquaintances and 1,500 people that they at least recognize. However, the idea behind Dunbar’s number is that those relationships outside of the 150-range need additional effort to move into the inner circle.
When it comes to your relationships from a personal or business perspective, understanding the relationship circles and your human limitations can identify opportunities for you and the teams you manage. We discuss these as well as how you can use this information moving forward:
Here are some of the key points in our discussion:
- 03:32 Ryan explains Dunbar’s number and how Professor Dunbar discovered it.
- 06:24 We discuss what it implies when it comes to management relationships.
- 10:11 Colin explains how you see what relationships people value by looking at how they spend their time.
- 16:19 We discuss what Dunbar’s number means for social media.
- 19:52 Ryan shares how the pandemic might have changed how our social interactions occur, but the vital nature of rekindling them as much as possible.
- 22:28 Colin shares how you can use Dunbar’s number in management at an employee and account level.
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Customer Experience Information & Resources
LinkedIn recognizes Colin Shaw as one of the ‘World’s Top 150 Business Influencers.’ As a result, he has 289,000 followers of his work. Shaw is Founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy LLC, which helps organizations unlock growth by discovering customers’ hidden, unmet needs that drive value ($). The Financial Times selected Beyond Philosophy LLC as one of the best management consultancies for the last two years. Follow Colin on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Click here to learn more about Professor Ryan Hamilton of Emory University.
Why Customers Buy: As an official “Influencer” on LinkedIn, Colin writes a regular newsletter on all things Customer Experience. Click here to join the other 22,000 subscribers.
Experience Health Check: You already have an experience, even if you weren’t deliberate about it. Our Experience Health Check can help you understand what you have today. Colin or one of our team can assess your digital or physical Customer Experience, interacting with your organization as a customer to define what is good and what needs improving. Then, they will provide a list of recommendations for critical next steps for your organization. Click here to learn more.
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