What’s Your Dunbar Number? by Dave Sharp

Tuesday 10 May 2016 | Category: Uncategorised

Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. This number was first proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar in 1992.

The main principle is that the average person can rationally manage 150 people and relationships under the Dunbar number principle. With this in mind I thought I would put myself to the test.

Why am I bringing this up?
Well I was sat here looking at the ever increasing number of people I have on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Skype etc. putting myself to the Dunbar test and seeing how many of these people I can remember where and when I met them and how they relate to the rest of my contacts.
Facebook helps me understand how people are connected by constantly telling me / showing me who is connected to who. In my head I can picture people as part of groups – clients, friends, friends of friends etc.  The question then becomes am I just purely remembering or am I in any way managing these groups?
Where LinkedIn really excels is that there is a clear focus on why people are on the site. Its a serious tool that I understand and recognise as being for my work/business career.
Facebook is less clear. There are people just trying to be friends, people doing business, raising awareness, raising money, campaigning on social issues and distributing the real reason we have the internet – cat videos. The reasons and motivations for being there are less distinct and therefore less manageable.
Google+ I now see very much the same as Facebook, a mish-mash of serious, trivial and banal.

For business, managing your network is essential. If done properly it should feed you a level of activity that provides a baseline of commercial activity on which you can build to increase turnover. If you can’t rely on the Dunbar theory to help you remember who people are and what your relationship is with them then what’s the best solution?


Customer Relationship Management or CRM is both a philosophy and a software solution. CRM systems allow you to create traceable histories of clients and relationships over long periods. Small business as well as large corporations that use CRM systems often generate massive financial rewards by being able to interact with contacts with specifically timed interactions driven by the CRM telling them that its product renewable time or the anniversary of a contract or purchase.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

If your a Microsoft user or fan then stick with Dynamics CRM. It directly integrates into all the other Microsoft software family, allowing you to feed your CRM system from Outlook, Word and One Note. Its not the cheapest system but its pretty powerful.


I’ve use this system a lot and its my favourite. Its a flexible system that has lots of interchangeable modules that can customise the system to suit your specific needs. It also has a access point that a programmer can come in and create bespoke modules for your business if you require them.  Low level SugarCRM is free and you only need to pay if your using some of the extended features.

There a lot of tools you can choose from for your CRM system but the key fact that is that you need to manage contacts, connections and acquaintances to maximise the benefit for your business. The theory of the Dunbar number whilst interesting isn’t a strategy so don’t overlook this very necessary aspect of being in business.

Give the Dunbar number a go yourself (don’t cheat) and see how you fair against the principle of 150 being the average.

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