Jason Fried of Basecamp fame once said: “You can do big things with small teams, but you can’t do small things with big teams. And small things are often all that’s necessary”.

As I write this in my head, I find myself standing on the top of the Sussex Downs, in the middle of a group of my mountain biking mates. As usual everyone is voicing their own opinions about which route to take next, the downhill, a steep climb or technical twisty trail. So that’s 15 riders, getting cold, impatient, ever louder, as well as thirsty for a beer as the evening progresses! An amazing amount of time is wasted, no one can decide where to go, or indeed hear the call above the rest to head west and try something completely new. Eventually, instead of opting for change, we head down familiar trails. Again.

Whether you are a mountain biking addict like me, or not, I’m sure you will recall a version of this situation when there are too many voices involved in making a decision, and innovation or the opportunity for even small change flies out the door.

Build and empower small teams

Having worked with start-ups, scale-ups and academic innovators for over 15 years, many things have struck me in the course of their journeys, but I believe one of the most important is building small teams. We all know that no-one makes it on their own, and ultimately success with any innovation is all about building the right team of individuals.

That always sounds so simple, but the best teams are far from just a group of people with different skillsets. To be effective and transformative they must be united by a crystal-clear mission, a problem they are passionate about solving, as well as a shared sense of value – building culture and ultimately belonging. In a small team this overarching clarity empowers the whole organisation to make great, strategically informed decisions and thus agile progress.

In fact, the fewer people there are, the more streamlined communication can be, the more focused they will remain, and the stronger their relationships will become. Now that’s a great reason to keep team sizes small, even as you grow big!