Photo courtesy of TheBusinessMakers.
I finally got to reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s first book The Tipping Point. I suspect I was the last person on the face of the earth to read it, but there you go; my reading list is long. I’m glad I read it, though.
The short description of Gladwell’s book is that it’s an examination of the forces that compel a microtrend to blow up into the mainstream. It’s definitely a must-read for communications pros and a fantastic companion to Mark Penn‘s book Microtrends.
One personal reason I enjoyed Tipping Point so much, though, was that it confirmed a long-held suspicion of mine that there is a point at which organizations get too large and become dysfunctional. I have long argued that when an organization gets to 100 people, you should split it into two organizations. I was off by 50 people.
Gladwell presents compelling evidence that the greatest number of people humans can have meaningful relationships with is roughly 150 individuals. The Hutterites have a strict policy that once a colony reaches 150 people, it must be split in two. Military companies, the functional fighting units of armies, typically do not exceed 200 soldiers.
Two years ago I expounded on my theory with regard to human resources’ role in organizations. Since then, we’ve seen large organizations act unethically, be it knowingly selling food-poisoned products or the excesses of Wall Street financial institutions.
The sheer largeness of an institution creates political cover for people to make unethical choices because it’s not their department, they are just following orders, etc. The intimacy of small organizations tends to prevent that dynamic because people hold one another accountable if only through the concern about how one would look to ones peers.
This is Gladwell speaking in 2007 about Minnesota’s Tipping Point, outlining what steps need to be undertaken in order to improve safety and justice in the state and across the country during the next 50 years. Found at YouTube from crimeandjustice.