The Right Team Size and Scaling Up

The Right Team Size and Scaling Up - Perspectives on Leadership and Innovation

Based on research studies and decades of real world experience, a team size of 4 to 8 people was found to be optimal for BentoBox modules. This size creates a safe and intimate space where barriers are easily broken down and ego is minimized. It provides a good balance between decision making speed, and diversity of viewpoints.

To scale up and implement BentoBoxes in larger projects for organizational transformation and cultural change, large groups are split into smaller teams. This process allows diverse ideas to emerge in the smaller groups, before being shared again with the larger team during debriefings.

Ultimately, team size in the BentoBox process is chosen strategically to balance efficiency, collaboration, and creativity while promoting a supportive and inclusive environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Small teams are efficient at decision-making, and foster connection and collaboration.
  • The optimal team size of 4 to 8 people in a BentoBox module helps to create a safe and intimate space, promoting the breakdown of barriers and minimizing ego in the process of collaboration and creation.
  • Larger groups can be split into smaller teams, allowing for diverse ideas to emerge, which are later shared and debriefed with the entire team.
  • This approach facilitates scaling and implementation of BentoBoxes in longer-term projects, supporting organizational transformation and cultural change.

The Conversation

Question: Why are BentoBoxes designed for 4 to 8 people? And can you share some of the thought processes and design principles that led the development in that way?

Jarin: I think it was probably the coordination of a few points. One was that in a lot of our work at SYPartners, we worked with different team sizes for different purposes. Sometimes it’s a duo for certain types of work. Sometimes it’s a trio because sometimes a duo can get stuck and a trio can force momentum. Small teams move really fast with decision making, and there’s a lot of research around this, too. There’s the “two pizza rule” and all the extensive research out there around team sizes.

Usually these studies land on a team size of around 5 to 9 people, or maybe a little smaller for decision making. Although we do have a decision making module, most of the rest of the BentoBoxes have the intention for people to -not- move really quickly and break things. Rather, it’s to connect with each other. And so, a slightly bigger team, can be good. That was one factor: What team size works well for this sort of creativity and innovation work, at the pace that we were imagining teams working at to get there.

On the other side, it was just quite pragmatic. I mentioned the analog nature of what we were designing and so we had some limitations around printing. There’s only so large a size you can double-sided digitally print on paper. And so we were trying to push that as far as we could because we knew that we wanted to have some sort of anchor element that was large so that a group of people could all huddle around and engage with this large anchor physical object. As we tested, we realized 4 to 8 people was really the limit that could work well with that size. And this was just the pragmatic decision on the other end. And thankfully the two points coordinate for what really works well for this type of team work.

Tom: I would say that having worked with the BentoBoxes and having seen several teams undergo the process, there’s a certain intimacy that evolves from the BentoBox process. It’s a pretty safe space in which people are operating, and we see that play out where barriers come down fairly easily in a smaller place. There’s less ego involved in the process in smaller groups.

The other thing that happens is that when we have groups larger than 8 people, we will split them into multiple teams and then just do a debrief after it. Sometimes the separate teams’ ideas come out alike, and many times they’re surprisingly diverse. So we give the ability to work in smaller teams, and have the smaller teams connect and share their ideas first. Then we bring it back to the larger team, and that is how these things can actually take root and scale in an organization where multiple BentoBoxes are used on a longer term project of transformation or cultural change.

About the podcast

“Perspectives on Leadership and Innovation” is a podcast hosted by Tom Pedersen, Founder and CEO of BentoBox Innovation.

With special guest Jarin Tabata, Global Consultant, Transformation and Innovation.