Doug Bedell — July 1, 2009, 1:33 pm

Security and Group Size

Here’s an interesting “anthropological” take on security, as reported by Bruce Schneier: When a company grows past 150, it’s time to issue name badges.

That’s because – Schneier quotes the research – “150 is the cognitive limit to the number of people a human brain can maintain a coherent social relationship with.”  Of course, this presumes that one troubles to meet and relate to all 150 members of his or her growing company, but that’s perhaps another matter…

Generally, the research suggests that there are “several layers of natural human group size” that increase with a ratio of approximately three: 5, 15, 50, 150, 500, etc. The smallest, three to five, is a “clique,” 12 to 20 constitutes a “sympathy group,” and 30 to 50 was the typical size of hunter-gatherer overnight camps.

We’d be inclined to issue name badges at fewer than 150 employees, but then we’re perhaps excessively security conscious. Certainly, we’d ask Bruce Schneier, or any other visitor, to sign in, please.

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