The Voltron Theory

Something happens when a group gets "too large" and suddenly it all transforms from a conversation into a cacophony and a team into a mob. Yet, going it alone is usually impossible if the task at hand is at all complicated. Assembling IKEA furniture is probably best done as an individual, but things like raising a family, having a stand-up meeting, or shipping a product is definitely a team sport...

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

-African Proverb, what should be the limit for a team in a creative endeavor?

One person is a loner, prone to fizzling out. A loner is not a team.

Two people are technically a team, but too likely to devolve into a loner.

Three is the start of a team, well and surely.

Four means a possible 50/50 stalemate on key decisions.

But Five. That's the perfect size for a team. How do I know this? Well...

Five is what I like to call "A Voltron".

A Voltron is the maximum number of people that I intuit can organically form a team without sacrificing the autonomy necessary to perform creative tasks, brainstorming an idea, or building something that requires expertise mixed with improvisation. In my opinion, it is the apex of the sum being greater than its parts, before diminishing returns on the number of minds and hands on the project drags you down.

I have arrived at this number after a myriad observations - none of which necessarily compute into an airtight, fallacy-free articulation of the idea. Here are some consideration:

  1. A table of five people tends to have one continuous conversation, where as six is where an ebb and flow between two or more trains of thought. This is the beginning of what I would call a "Congress", not a "Team".
  2. Five means diverse disciplines for tackling diverse tasks (like 3 and 4), but also the raw numbers to apply more than one person to complex tasks
  3. When watching sports with large teams (Footbul, American Football, etc), they always have to squander resources on players who do not interact with the ball, yet in small team games where they have almost 100% active players with the ball (Basketball, Hockey, etc), they only allocate about five people, which makes me think that's an optimal number.

I believe sticking to a Voltron is optimal in numerous situations, such as: any meeting where you require the consultation of all attending (rather than just to inform those attending), teams for organizing events, and teams for shipping new products. Best case scenario, a group of people larger than a "Voltron" can aspire to be a "Tribe". Tribes have a shared set of values, are allowed to be individuals, and can have leeway to make unique contributions, but in the end, they are more likely to pick berries than land a wooly mammoth.

If we really want the Tri-Cities Creative/Tech/Startup/Bootstrap Community to start taking control of its destiny, then I would propose we do it by focusing on building many Voltrons. We can be one tribe, but a tribe must form into teams if they are to solve a single problem efficiently, stick to a single course of action, and ship a single product. Now that we've found our people, we each need to find our Voltrons.

Now that we've found our people,

We each need to find our Voltrons.