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Munafo Core Values: MCV05 — Contribute to Each Level    


Contribute to Each Level

This core value concerns the amount of time, effort, focus of attention, and other resources that you give to different activities in your life.

There is an implicit understanding that the different activities one has to choose from can be categorised by what "level" they benefit or belong to (keeping in mind that many activities benefit more than one level). These levels are distinguished by how many people are involved or affected by the activity in question; they are the same levels referred to in MCV14.

The core value is present when there is a balance in the amount being given to each different level. Some levels, in particular the individual, relationship and team levels, require a basic subsistence minimum. Each individual must choose how much to give to each level — notwithstanding the need for the basic minimums just mentioned.

Human beings have individual ability (of varying degree ranging from intellectual independence up to complete physical self-sufficiency) but tend to take advantage of the benefits of working together with others. Depending on the activity and the purpose, the number of people who can be involved varies. This results from some (at the lower levels) basic limits in the ability of the mind to communicate and represent knowledge about the outside world and (at the higher levels) the complexity of organising large numbers of people. Because of these limits, the type, nature and style of interaction changes depending on how many others are involved, and this gives each level a different sort of flavour.

The levels are:

Individual — anything and everything you do by and for yourself; anything that does not involve or affect someone else.

Relationship — things concerning only one other person.

Team (or nuclear family) — a group of people numbering from 3 up to the subitising1 level. For humans (and for all other animals tested) the limit on subitising, and thus on the size of a team, is about 1 (yourself) plus 7 others, for a total of about 8. This limit applies to such things as a human sports team or a hunting pack of wolves. Larger "teams" of animals such as a school of fish are more like a community. The cutoff at about 8 is particularly important to people because of the importance of modeling in teamwork. Beyond the subitising limit, one loses the ability to keep track of who knows what and this greatly diminishes the efficiency of the rapid, nonverbalised communication upon which teamwork is built.

Organisation (or extended family) — a larger group of people, too large to be a team but still small enough to retain almost complete knowledge of all people involved. The term small organisation might be more appropriate — this is an organisation in the classic sense, a group small enough to retain a family-style intimacy. There is a limit to how large a group can be to retain character-identification — about 30 or 40 people.

This is the oldest size limit for human society groups, and is the limit for the size of band societies in anthropology. The group size is evident in the living-groups of the most ancient surviving cultures — such as the Mbuti and indigenous Australians[4]. Dunbar refers to these groups as an "overnight camp" [3], and gives an average of 38, with a variance of 42%, based on data from 8 indiginous cultures. (This is to be contrasted with a "village", which is larger.)

These group size numbers have also been found in Western societies [7]. Modern-day groups that experience the same limit are a primary school classroom, or a sports club (including everyone on the field plus those on the bench and the coaches, but usually excluding special players, such as pinch hitters and short relief pitchers). 30 or 40 is the maximum size a company can attain before it must employ hierarchical organisation, middle-management, and other more modern social structures.

Community — This is an even larger group of people, limited by the ability to retain a moderate level of familiarity and trust. This is Dunbar's "village" size, which he gives as 148 with a variance of 29% averaged over 9 cultures[3]. This group-size is also evident in Western society[7]; see also Gladwell[5]. It is probably no coincidence that this is also the minimum population for long term genetic viability (see also [6]).

Community size is a personal experience, and varies by person — some can keep more connections active. The size of your community depends on your own ability to remember people. If you encounter someone you used to know, and have to re-familiarize yourself with them before being able to do something that involves personal risk and a moderate level of trust in them, then they were not part of your "community". Most people experience this limit at somewhere from 100 to 250. The term "community" is also used to express larger groups, such as "the Italian-American community", but this is actually closer to the next level up, "society".

Society — This is a group of people larger than a community but which share enough in common to communicate and/or interact effectively. Notice that "enough in common" does not usually require language (see MCV12), thus people who speak different languages can be part of the same society. A culture is a similar concept. Note that societies can include multiple cultures, and a culture can include multiple societies. Society includes anything from a network of communities (Anthropologists use the word "tribe") to cultures with millions of members or more.

Mankind — All human beings.

Here I would like to acknowledge that many people recognize higher levels. A few examples are: all living things; the entire physical universe; a larger world including spiritual or non-physical things.

MCV05 for Teams

For teams, the team itself is the "individual", other teams and other larger groups represent the higher levels. For example we could refer to a "division" (e.g. the American League East) as a "team of teams", and a "league" as the next higher level, an "orgnaisation of teams". I am putting "division" and "league" in quotes to signify that these words have specific meanings in certain sports which help illustrate the point, but to remind the reader that I intend this to be applied to all organisations of teams, not just sport organisations.

When this core value is present:

The team works and plays with other teams. (+mcv5a)

The team works for the success of the other teams in its "division" and "league" (+mcv5b), and supports the larger organisation it is a part of. (+mcv5c)

The team benefits society and Mankind. (+mcv5d)

When this core value is lacking:

The team is isolated from other teams. (-mcv5a)

The team neglects the success of its "division" or "league" (-mcv5b), or does not support the larger organisation it is a part of. (-mcv5c)

The team has no interest in community service or other higher causes. (-mcv5d)


1 : Subitising: described on my large-numbers page, and see the reference to George Miller in that page's bibliography.


[2] R. I. M. Dunbar, "Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates, " Journal of Human Evolution (1992), vol. 20, pp. 469-493.

[3] R. I. M. Dunbar, Coevolution of neocortical size, group size and language in humans. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (4): 681-735 (1993).

[4] Cavalli-Sforza, The Great Human Disaporas (translated from the original Italian by Sarah Thorne), Basic Books (1995) ISBN 0-201-44231-0, p. 5 (Pygmies) and p. 19 (Aboriginies)

[5] Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Little-Brown (2000), ISBN 0316316962.

[6] John Moore, Evaluating Five Models of Human Colonisation, American Anthropologist 103 (2) pp. 395-408 (2001).

[7] R. A. Hill and R.I.M. Dunbar, Social network size in humans, Human Nature 14 (1) pp. 53-72 (2003).

[8] Susan Weinschenk (website "What Makes Them Click"), Our "strong tie" group size is 150 people, blog article (2010).

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