Great Business Ideas: The rule of 150

Great Small Business Ideas to Start: The rule of 150

Coworkers find socializing, teamworking, and associated activities (such as innovating, collaborating, and sharing knowledge) much easier to achieve when they are placed in groups of less than 150. In this way, larger corporations gain the benefit of smaller groups that are often closer, more energetic, entrepreneurial, supportive, and better.

The idea

A fascinating example of an organization that clearly understands the benefits of collaboration is Gore Associates, a privately held, multi-million-dollar high-tech firm based in Delaware. As well as manufacturing the water-resistant Gore-Tex fabric, the firm also produces products for the semiconductor, pharmaceutical, and medical industries.

Gore is unique because of its adherence to the rule of 150. This approach is based on anthropological research highlighting the fact that humans can socialize in large groups because, uniquely, we are able to handle the complexities of social arrangements. However, there is a limit to the bonds people can make, and this is reached at around 150. In groups larger than 150, complicated hierarchies, regulations, and formal measures are needed, but below 150 these same goals can be achieved informally.
Consequently, Gore limits the size of each office so it is below 150.

Gore has 15 plants within a 12-mile radius in Delaware and Maryland, each with a close-knit group of employees who understand each other and work well together. This approach emphasizes the benefits

of collective management such as communication, initiative, and flexibility, and it has enabled a big business with thousands of employees to retain the attitude of a small, entrepreneurial start- up. The result is a rate of employee turnover that is a third of the industry average, and sustained profitability and growth for over 35 years.

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In practice

  • Divide your workforce into groups or branches of under 150 people.
  • Institute a strong managerial system to oversee smaller “branches” and ensure they are coordinated and efficient.
  • Encourage a sense of community and teamwork within groups. The “rule of 150” simply means that it will be possible for workers to form positive bonds with all of their coworkers—extra measures should be taken to ensure that this actually happens.
  • Develop a sense of team across groups of 150. This means finding ways for people to communicate and collaborate across the whole business, rather than developing a series of competitive, separate groupings.