Dunbar’s number is proposed to be the limit to the number of stable and active social relationships that a human being can maintain. The number, roughly estimated to be about 150, has a couple deep implications.
For one, it reveals that a person’s influence can not be increased simply by increasing the quantity of relationships. This poses a fundamental challenge to traditional leadership, where the goal is for one group of individuals to unite and organize a large group of people. I’ve noticed this phenomenon personally, as many of the groups that try to maintain solid leadership and growth have difficulty remaining personal somewhere north of the 100 people mark.
In the past, centralized leadership worked under smaller groups of people, because the ease of connection and communication was nowhere near as quick or easy as it is today. Centralized leadership generally makes people feel safer, because they have someone on top that they can choose to trust to lead and guide them. However, as the world becomes more connected, it becomes more and more difficult for a single leader to keep up with what is going on with each person individually.
Instead of having a centralized leadership, we can use a decentralized system to take advantage of Dunbar’s number. Instead of having one person be the head for hundreds or thousands of people, decentralization levels the playing field and removes the “head”.
Decentralized systems gather around a principle or ideal rather than people. Instead of having people in leadership, they have core values. Thus, within a decentralized system, individuals are free to build and maintain connections among each other, creating a more connected and integrated community that can easily adapt and grow.
Decentralized systems embrace community, while a centralized system pushes conformity. And just like how we are realizing that we need to move from industrialization to personalization, we must also choose to move from centralized systems to decentralized systems.
Read The Starfish and the Spider if you want a better picture of what I’m talking about.