Modern living seems to be becoming more and more complex as time goes by. It often seems that, in the name of accountability, we are required to jump through more hoops, fill more forms and spend less time doing the good stuff.

A lot of this complexity seems to be due to scale: as organisations grow, communication networks become larger and more dense. After a certain point (150 people, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Tipping Point), it becomes impossible for effective, personal communication to occur. After this point, we come to rely on papertrails and computer systems: the left hand no longer automatically knows what the right hand is doing.

Once we have organisations nested within organisations (like a school within a system), things get exponentially worse. Each layer requires its own procedures, protocols and forms, and each layer needs to move things up and down to its parent and children levels. Things become complicated indeed.

I wonder, at what point does weight of communication, and its attendant bureaucracy, cancel out the advantages derived from scale? Perhaps, as E.F. Schumacher said, small really is beautiful.