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The 150-Employee Limit? How to Grow Beyond "Dunbar's Number"

Poor communication at large organizations costs big money. How can companies avoid it?

Robin Dunbar, a British evolutionary psychologist, studied groups in the 1990s and found that the human brain can handle about 150 stable relationships1. Beyond 150, communication starts to weaken. Close relationships are harder to maintain. Our brain can't keep track of everyone in the group.

“Dunbar's Number” applies acutely to growing companies.

Companies often find that once they surpass 150 employees, strange and costly things start to happen2. Inefficiencies develop, workers lose sight of goals, waste compounds3.

Figure 1: Internal communication strategies fails to scale as the company grows.

CEOs of small companies can interact with every employee. But as a company grows, executives lose those close connections, diluting the company's sense of shared purpose.

Communication breakdowns at companies have huge economic effects

One consequence is a "silo effect," when employees fragment themselves into competitive silos and turf battles erupt. This can hamper innovation and erode a company's competitive advantage.4

In the banking and pharmaceutical industries, research has shown that siloing of a company's departments can waste enormous resources and time while competitors—especially smaller companies—pass them by.5

On manufacturing floors, one analysis showed that engaged and properly-trained employees are five times less likely to have a safety incident than employees who were unclear of protocols.6 Damages to worker health and productivity can be irreversible.

Figure 2: Risk of Workplace Accident

High-quality video can bridge communication barriers

Companies that figure out how to communicate with more than 150 employees can successfully grow far bigger. According to industry surveys, bridging disconnects can increase revenue and cut costs—each by more than a third.7

Figure 3: The most effective videos are informative, entertaining and compelling

At Osmosis, we know that high-quality video is the most powerful tool to maintain a high level of communication across large groups of people. Video can amplify an individual voice and enable employees to get to know their company's leaders. It can train new employees. It can showcase positive job performance and so much more.

Companies that use video to communicate effectively and efficiently can prove that Dunbar's limit of 150 is, ultimately, not a limit to their success.

Do you have thoughts or questions about your company's communication?

We would love to hear from you.