Does your brain size limit the number of your relationships?
It does, according to Robin Dunbar.
Who is Robin Dunbar?
Robin Dunbar is an Anthropologist with the University College of London. In the early 1990’s, he postulated that the maximum number of people an individual could maintain stable relationships with was about 150.(http://bit.ly/2EBe4s7) He came to his conclusion using studies based on the size of the human brain’s neocortex. This became known as Dunbar’s Number.
“What?” I hear you cry out. “That can’t be right. I have more FaceBook friends than that.”
Yes, many of us do. And, Dunbar’s number may be misleading for reasons I will explain later on.
Types of Relationships
First, let’s look at the types of relationships we tend to have. My feeling is that relationships tend to fall into two general groups: personal, and professional. Further, we can break those down into the following sub-groups:
1. High: Requiring constant effort and nurturing to maintain
2. Medium: Requiring some effort to maintain
3. Low or casual: Requiring little or no effort.
I doubt if any of us even thought of “managing” our social relationships until the internet came along. With the internet came the rise of social media. In the wink of an eye, we found ourselves with the ability to connect with millions of people. This is the whole theory behind membership in LinkedIn, the social media giant for professionals. By working with the top 3 degrees of connectivity, you can reach out to over 2.2 million people.
Why Does This Matter?
Look where our economy is heading. With the advance of robots and software technology, up to half of existing jobs today will be gone by 2030 ( http://bit.ly/2w4whhN ). This means, most of us will be Freelancers (full disclosure, I already am one). As such, one of the keys to your success will be the ability to manage your professional relationships. This is where I intend to concentrate the rest of this discussion.
Where Should I Put My Effort?
In my opinion, to be successful as a Freelancer, you will need to concentrate your professional relationship management efforts in two main areas: High, and Medium.
I would define high professional relationships as workgroups you belong to. This could be client relationships, team projects, professional groups, etc. Any group or organization that is providing immediate income to your practice. This is where Dunbar’s number comes into play. You see, Dunbar was talking about cohesive groups. One of the characteristics of cohesive groups is the amount of time the group spends on socializing to keep the group functioning. Dunbar estimated that number to be as high as 40%.
You can see, if you belong to more than one functioning group, it won’t take long before all your available time is used up.
The next area of professional relationships to concentrate on is the Medium. I would describe this level as the one containing your pool of prospects for future work. While this level only requires medium effort, it does require effort. At this level are the people following your blog posts (you are blogging aren’t you?). Then there are the contacts in your email and/or e-newsletter campaigns. How about the contacts in your LinkedIn groups where you post regularly. Probably the easiest to stay in touch with are the people who have liked your FaceBook business page. The idea here is to keep your name and skills out there so potential clients have a way to find you.
The good news here is by having a plan and managing your relationships, you have the opportunity to circulate your brand to many more people than ever before. If you aren’t Freelancing yet, my guess is you will be sooner than you think. So, start now building your contact list, and communicate with them on a regular basis.