The optimal number of people in a meeting is two. That’s because it’s easier to understand and work with people one-on-one. You can give them your full attention, and you get their full attention. In contrast, when you meet with more than one other person, your mode of interaction will drop to the lowest common denominator appropriate to the people you’re interacting with. As a result, the effectiveness of a meeting is in inverse proportion to the number of people in it.
The superiority of one-on-one conversations to group conversations is particularly pronounced when you’re trying to think deeply about a challenge or problem.
What to do in situations where there are multiple stakeholders involved in a decision? Where possible, I try to break down group discussions into a series of one-on-one conversations, led by the “owner”. It sounds like a lot more work, but it’s actually more effective and time efficient than group meetings. And one-on-one discussions are more enjoyable. They become impromptu water cooler chats, walks together, or phone conversations.