The maximum group size for a proper conversation is four people (five at a push).
This discovery has profound implications for those who design and facilitate workshops and participative gatherings such as unconferences, World Cafés, and Open Space, Future Search and WholeScale™ events.
But it has largely been ignored, despite the publication of two academic papers revealing the truth about maximum group size, and a blogpost in which David Gurteen shared the results of his own practice-based study with his extensive global network.
Today, groups of eight are still the norm at the type of interactive conference or event where people sit at round tables, and Open Space discussion groups with 10, 20 or 30 participants continue to be commonplace.
What this means:
Companies are not getting the best return on their investment.
Participant experience is being diluted.
Downstream value is being diminished.
Consequently, we are launching MAX4, a five-year mission to see “a maximum of four people in a discussion group” become standard practice.
We are a not-for-profit collective with a generative ethos, focused on helping people move from Blissful Ignorance to Skilful Practice as swiftly as possible. Our remit is creating awareness and sharing knowledge. Downstream training and consultancy services are provided by a network of independent practitioners.
One of our biggest challenges will be getting people beyond the place we call Willful Disregard, where ‘max four’ is an inconvenient truth.