Robin Dunbar is a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University who has spent most of his career trying to answer a deceptively simple question:
How and why did humans evolve to be such a sociable species?
He is perhaps best known for the so-called Dunbar’s number, the idea that there is an upper limit to the number of meaningful social relationships we can maintain.
It’s an idea that seems to hold true at work as well, even now – in the era of remote and hybrid work. While theoretically, we can connect with anyone, anywhere (thanks to our cool gadgets and technology,) it seems that cultivating meaningful relationships, remotely or not, still requires spending quality time together. And time is a limited resource for all of us.
In this interview professor Dunbar and I talk about how we can apply the findings from his research when we design our teams and organizations, why the number 150 is so important to keep in mind when we build a business, about his forecast when it comes to the return – or no return – to the office – and much more!
“We don’t go into work because we have to, we go into work because we have pride in our job.”
In this interview, Daniel and I discuss:
- How Dan’s upbringing in Alaska with three brothers pushed him to research group performance.
- The three pillars of thriving cultures – safety, vulnerability, and purpose – and how they contribute to ensuring group success.
- How our facial expressions can signal belonging.
- The importance of humor and playfulness in the workplace.
- Cultivating safety through bold acts of authentic vulnerability.
- Dealing with negative feedback and bad news.
- Tips on how to effectively scale purpose.
- Simulating physical proximity through mental closeness.
“It’s all very well, for those who say no, no hybrid working is here to stay. My answer to that is simply look at history.”
Listen to the interview in the player below or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review, and it may be featured on a future episode.