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Core Design Principles for the Efficacy of Groups

I originally encountered these principles in David Sloan Wilson's book, This View of Life. If you’d like another description of these principles that is freely available on the web, you can refer to this PDF of an article originally published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Elinor Ostrom won a Nobel Prize for her work in this area. These principles were based – not on abstract or aspirational ideas about how such groups should work, or reasons why they could not possibly work – but on actual observation of the attributes of groups that actually did work.

As soon as I read these, I recognized their significance, and the ways in which they supported and mirrored many of the principles of the Agile software development movement, with which I was already familiar.

I believe these principles to be universal and scalable to groups of any size.


I would offer up this definition of the sorts of groups we’re talking about here:

A group of humans deriving perceived benefit from a shared set of resources, working towards a common goal, with some unifying identity, and with established means of interaction.


Next: Strong Group Identity