Why Complex Networks Form

Why Complex Networks Form

The bigger a team gets, the less efficient it becomes.

Why Complex Networks Form

When a team first starts out, it is usually small, communication is generally good, and trust is high. As things ramp up, however, it becomes necessary to bring more people in and get them connected. When adding people to a team, the progression is linear: adding a new person increases the size of the team by 1. The equation might look something like this (where n is the number of new team members added):

team size = previous team size + n new team members

What is often overlooked is the fact that the complexity of the network (i.e. team) does not increase in a linear manner. For each new node added to the network, the number of connections between the nodes (i.e. links) increases by a different formula:

number of links = previous number of links + previous number of nodes

This progression can be visualized like this:

Nodes and Links

As the team size continues to increase in a linear manner, the complexity of the network increases exponentially:

Nodes and Links

If the growth rate of a team is left unchecked, the efficiency of the team will eventually decline. The management of the growing number of relationships, combined with communication breakdowns and everything else that happens in a team will begin to erode the effectiveness of the team.

One solution to the problem is the formation of complex networks, or “networks of networks” where team size remains manageable and decentralized teams are able to work together. In this kind of “team of teams” arrangement (McChrystal, Collins, Silverman, & Fussell, 2015), smaller teams can work together as part of a larger team with effectiveness that scales far better than one large team.

Nodes and Links


References

  1. McChrystal, G. S., Collins, T., Silverman, D., & Fussell, C. (2015). Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. New York, New York: Portfolio. Retrieved from http://amzn.to/1rsGfmp