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Dunbar Number

August 22, 2018  

Dunbar was a social scientist who calculated that the human brain can only actively manage a certain number of healthy relationships at one time and those relationships are what he defined as your network. These are relationships that have depth and breadth enough that they can sustain droughts of silence at one time. These contain people you can call upon to ask for tasks that go beyond just normal day-to-day activity. These are the people who are going to help you shingle your roof or the people who are going to carry your casket, or to help you find a career.

The Dunbar Number is anywhere between 150 and 200 people. Sure, there are people that we know that seemingly have thousands who they can remember from as far away as their elementary school. They remember first names and last name and birthdays. They have amazing memories.  But this doesn’t necessarily mean that their Dunbar Number is any greater then 200.  

People assume that with the social networking tools such as LinkedIn or Facebook, that the Dunbar Number would be shattered. But the reality is, the types of relationships we gather on those social networking tools are very thin and they do not develop to the point where you could actually call up many of them and ask an important favour.

The Dunbar Number includes relationships where people would actually go to bat for you. If we are only dealing with 150 to 200 people, we have to be efficient with who we include.  We have to manage that number. Are there people within our network that are inefficient or that don’t deserve to be there? You have a limited capacity to manage individuals in a way that the relationship is meaningful enough to be included in your 150-200. Pruning is therefore necessary.

For it is within these 150-200 people that we are most likely to find people who will help you with your job search.

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