Jean-Michel Cornu : Cooperation in 28 keywords

3 . Size of the group and member's part

JM Cornu - La Coopération en 28 mots-clés - 3. La taille des groupes et le rôle des membres

Second aspect of the groups, very counterintuitive, is an aspect that relates to the size of the groups and to parts. We always feel that in a group, there are people who are doing such things, so-and-so is so cool and does things well, so-and-so is not that terrific, etc. In fact, it is not clear that it is a matter of size and part. For that, we'll go further into details. First of all, what is a group? It does not start with one, but obviously not with two either, two is interpersonal. By the way, there is an Amazonian tribe called Pirahãs which counts like that : one, two , many. So all linguists rushed to say, " Oh my dear, this is funny ... But, hey, if they do not know how to calculate VAT, we will not civilize them”. Except that they don't live so bad in society, precisely because they understand the difference between interpersonal : "two" and "many" or "several" which starts from three. So a group starts from three. And worse luck, I have bad news for you : you are very limited. Another bad news also is that I am, we are, limited to a capacity of about twelve people to talk to, to do things with. It's not about knowing people - we are able to have a social network of up to 150 people or so, cognitively - but about cooperating, understanding what is going on, making things happen. To achieve that, we must form small groups. Until 1990, people would say "We are unable to work if we are more than twelve”. So there are tips, we build a hierarchy with a leader, who will have 12 sub-chiefs, who will have 12 sub-sub chiefs, who will have 12 other people under his command, etc. Or we will have representatives, a king or 12 Burghers of Calais and we will trust a currency rather than 7 billion people, etc. But in the end, we are still very limited compared with what we can trust when systems of group's mechanism are concerned. This was an impassable boundary until a small Finnish guy decided he would not hear nor read it that way and had fun developping an operating system, that is to say a system to run computers, not 12 but 1000, just for fun. Here, what is interesting is why it may work. For that, we will try to understand that in a group there are active people and inactive people. Under 12, the standard is usually : You do your job and if one doesn't do his, then people will see it and it's abnormal, it's an anomaly. This time, when we are going to be over 12, we will be in a totally different situation. First we will be in a situation where most people will be inactive and we won't have just "active" people - we will try to go a little further into detail - but "proactive" and "reactive"people.
So "proactive ": I do things for myself, I take initiatives. “Reactive " : When asked a question, I answer. And we can even add "observers". When we worked on the topic with a group of collective intelligence, we said : “there are people who are proactive, there are people who are reactive and people who do nothing”. We underwent a revolt. It was called " The Revolt of the observers” because one person reacted saying : "Hey, you've got nerves, I read all the emails from your list, I work, I look at things, I use them for me. Well ... okay, I don't do things for the group. Well, I 'm not necessarily visible, but it is not very kind to say I'm inactive". And actually, you can see that there is a true hierarchy, a real step between being idle, being observer, being reactive and being proactive. What is very interesting and surprising and even counterintuitive is that being proactive or reactive does not depend on people, it is a percentage that remains very constant. Very constant, in fact, because we will have always have almost 10% of reactive people, let's say between 10 and 40%. When you ask people to give their name plus an introducing sentence on a discussion list, they do not need to search for documentation and you can have up to 40% people answering. Usually it's 10% even if you are not very efficient. And then you have between 1 to 5 %, let's say a few percents, of proactive people, who will take the initiative. So now imagine that you have 100 people in your group, you say "Yes, that's fine, but there are about ten people who answer to my stuff and the rest, they do nothing. So, I'm fed up, I'll take the 90 people and throw them out of my group, I'll just keep the ten". And in the ten left, you'll have 10 % of active people, that is to say : one, you, you are all alone. Now imagine on the contrary that you are a group of a hundred, that is to say that you have ten active people, well, twenty at the very best, but ten at least. It means that with a hundred people in your group, you are sure that the dynamics will occur. If you have ten people, the eleventh will start talking, etc. On the other hand, if you have 50 people, you won't have more than 4, 5, 6 speakers and that is not much. So one of the tricks is to add 50 people who are not very active in your group and you will see that you will simply double the rate of active people. This is what is counterintuitive, and it means that people will play a part and to understand that, just : are you totally proactive in some groups ? I mean groups where you take the initiative, where you do things : probably yes. Is there a group in which you are not proactive but reactive ? Probably yes. Is there a group in which you are observer ? You get my point. Of course ! And then there are groups where you are totally inactive, so you are not just inactive, or just proactive, but you play a part that depends on the number of places, of groups to which you belong, on your environment, on the problems you may have in your everyday's life and then also on the number of reactive people in. If not enough people are active in a group, there will be some kind of force that will push you to become active, if too many people are active, there will be a force that will set you back. So it is not as accurate as that but it means that there is a real role that casually keeps the percentage very constant and that's very counterintuitive. So if I calculate according to that, 100 people for larger groups, it's perfect, it means that we have a dozen active people. Remember under 12, everyone works and the amazing thing is when someone does nothing. Under 10, no one does, observers are your friends, inactive people are your friends because they may be active tomorrow, and on the other hand, you may have a dozen people. This also means that between 12 and 100 you have "intermediate groups" that are not very easy to manage because in fact you're going to try hard to make people active. You will say "Damn, I can't". Fair enough, you simply don't have enough people. And then, this works fine until you reach about 1000 people. In fact, that is what was said with Linux, the operating system we were talking about, which worked out. So what we are really going to talk about now are groups of between 100 and 1000. And if your group is of only 20 people, you must manage to add 80 people by expanding it. Even if your idea of the group is mainly focused on these 20 people. Let's go a little further, and it is true that sometimes you have "smart mobs". “Smart mobs” mean that plenty of things are taking place. Around 2003, since the anecdote of the operating system in the late 90's, there was another guy who had not at all followed that course and said " Well yeah, but ..." Finally, he did not know one could not work with over a thousand people. So he started Wikipedia, he was called Jimmy Wales and he worked with groups of ten thousands, a hundred thousands or a billion people. And we have other types of mechanism that we are just beginning to understand. So we had to wait for the 90's to understand better what was going on in groups between 100 and 1,000 people. And now, we are just beginning to understand what a group of 10,000 100,000 or 1,000,000 people is. But this doesn't tally exactly with today's topic.