A Proposed Law of Group Behaviour

APRIL 8, 2005

A while ago I was at a conference with a bunch of people and we were standing around in the lobby of the hotel waiting to set off for supper. From arrival of the first of us to actual departure took about half an hour. First a couple of those who were supposed to be coming hadn't turned up so a posse went off to search for them. Next no-one had yet agreed where to go so a whole discussion ensued as to what kind of food was wanted, what was the price range and who had the local knowledge suited to making quality/price recommendations. Finally by the time this had got resolved and the two people originally missing had been located some of those orginally present had wandered off to the bar to check email via wifi and grab a drink. Prising them loose took another five mintues. But eventually we did set off -- half an hour late mind you.

The whole experience and many others like it suggested to me the proposition which, with immodesty or hestitation, I will christen a law: The time taken by a group to reach a decision or commence an activity is proportional to the square of the number of members of the group. While coined on the basis of casual observation I'd be interested to know if there was any work in the literature to back it up ....