Small Group Effectiveness

Part 8 of 14 in the series About LISN


There is a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.

In this world of social media and the urge to have many ‘friends’ it is worth noting that in the 1990s British anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed that humans can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships. So let’s start there. Just to interact with more than 150 others is a challenge. But we all want more than to just know someone’s name and some idea of what they like or do.

A recent Harvard Business Review stat published that research by Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers indicates that seven (7) is the optimal size for an effective group. Yet much of the recent research suggests an optimum of 5-6 for business or social effectiveness.

This also applies to spirituality. If we want to be effective in caring for others in a group, the group size needs to be small.


We all want to be heard, and LISNing with the heart takes time.

As the size of a group increases the number of possible person-to-person links increases rapidly as the size of the group. In a seven-member group there are twenty one possible pairings. For this reason, in order for a group to listen to each other individually, for each person to one-on-one for 10 minutes, in a group of 7 would require 210 minutes, or three and a half hours!

However if the same group listens together to one person at a time, it would take only 70 minutes.

In other words, the size of a group, and the way they listen to each other, determines how much each person is heard during a given period of time.


But there is more than just listening. There is also the power of the group! Click here to read an inspirational story about such power.

Research has shown that collective intelligence does exist.

Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi and Thomas W. Malone did research to show:

“This “c factor” (the group’s collective intelligence) is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.”

Our view of the benefits of listening from the heart, as equals, is changing positively.


Most traditions acknowledge the power of social impact on a person’s health. Many religions have a strong history of healing when people come together to use their life force with intent and compassion.

Resources such as the book “The Power of Eight” are enlightening the modern mind to the healing benefits of small groups.

Have a peek at The Power of Eight: Harnessing the Miraculous Energies of a Small Group to Heal Others, Your Life, and the World

The Power of Eight: Harnessing the Miraculous Energies of a Small Group to Heal Others, Your Life, and the World

Other Council Fires Were Here Before Ours: A Classic Native American Creation Story as Retold by a Seneca Elder

These recent new resources leverage from the worldwide resurgence of Circles, Councils, and Campfires.

“A small circle of limited duration that is intentional about its process will have a deeper, more life-giving impact than a large, ongoing community that is shaped by the norms of conventional culture.”
Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

And so it goes.

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