What size of group are we talking about?
In looking at the experience here in the UK, the best practice that we have seen over these last years, is that groups work best at a number somewhere between 4 and 12. 4 is nearly too few and 12 is nearly too many. Once you have 12 in a room, the capacity for participation is significantly reduced.
Why is this? It’s to do with the number of lines of communication between the people in the group. Where you have three people in a group you have six lines of communication two between persons A and B two between persons B and C and two between C and A. This makes the group feel quite intimate and gives plenty of opportunity for participation.
The way that the number of lines of communication can be worked out is to simply apply a little formula, which is taking the number of people in the group and multiplying it by the number in the group, then taking away the number in the group. So if you have ten people in your group you have 10 x 10 which is 100 minus 10 which is 90 lines of communication! Not surprisingly this limits the amount of participation that is possible!
We have noticed that it can also limit the attendance of members as the group becomes large. People don’t participate as much and don’t feel as connected as a result and so don’t come, they also feel that they won’t be missed. Many groups can have a list of members, some up to 15 or more, but in reality only have 10 or so in regular attendance.
Another factor that influences group sizes in practice is where groups eat together, as many do. There are only so many people you can easily get around an average dining table, six or at a squeeze seven. Added to this it becomes a bigger challenge to provide food for say twelve people rather than just six or seven.
So try to keep groups fairly small for best results.
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