Graham Jones
5 min readApr 8, 2023


Like many people on Tuesday, I was eager to find out what former US President, Donlad Trump had been charged with in a New York court. It turned out that he had been accused of 34 different criminal offences. TV reporters, like me and probably you as well, struggled to see those 34 items. It appeared to be only one thing — falsifying his accounts.

Maybe he did it 34 times. I don’t know; I couldn’t work it out from the charge sheet that was published. Meanwhile, across the rest of the USA beyond Manhattan, prosecutors are preparing a wide range of criminal cases against “The Donald”. It is going to be hard to keep track of what he is being accused of doing wrong. If just one of these cases involves 34 elements, just imagine what it is going to be like over the next 12 months when hundreds more are added. It would be so much easier if they just charged him with one thing — being a proven liar. The plethora of charges will merely give Donald Trump more oxygen for publicity.

The day after all the brouhaha for The Donald, a much more serious case hit the headlines when Kyle Bevan was found guilty of the murder of his partner’s two-year-old daughter. This led to a debate about the role of social services in protecting vulnerable children. Critics argued that the risks should have been spotted by social workers and the girl protected. That’s great in theory, but not in practice. Social workers in child protection are in short supply. Instead of having a maximum of 18 cases to look after, child protection officers now have dozens. They simply cannot keep track of what is going on.

While I had been reading about this case, I was joined at lunch by a professor who asked how many students were taking a new degree programme I had introduced recently. During the discussion I mentioned I was working on a new module, which starts next week, called “The Psychology of Entrepreneurship”, in which students will discover what makes entrepreneurs tick. “How many students are doing that module?” asked the prof. “It’s a small class,” I said, “there are just 12 of them.” The professor then said that this was ideal. “Once you get more than 15 in a class, it’s difficult to see what’s going on,” he added.

School classes get limited at around 30 students, but the teachers cannot really cope with that size unless they have a Teaching Assistant. Being able to see which students are struggling and those that need challenging, is tough when you have a large group.

In business the same problem exists. Ask a salesperson who has to look after 100 clients, compared with a “key account manager” who has a handful. Ask a manager who has a dozen staff who report directly to them or a line manager who has 100 reports. Ask a call centre operator who is targeted on the number of calls they answer a day, compared with one who is measured on positive outcomes.

Times are tough at the moment. Economies the world over are struggling. That means there is a tendency to cut back, to avoid having too many staff. Indeed, a couple of days ago the largest North Sea oil producer cut a quarter of its workforce due to the “financial pressures of windfall taxes”. The company’s share price rose on the announcement.

Behind this decision will be the idea that the remaining workers are capable of doing more. Indeed, they will have to do more to replace the effort put in by the 350 individuals who will be leaving. That’s a typical business thought when times are tough. The notion is that existing staff have the capacity to do more work.

But we have to consider whether that is true. To determine that you need to play the game “Where’s Wally”. This is a book-based game in which “Wally” is seemingly hidden amongst many other people who look like him. Each page of a “Where’s Wally” book contains cartoon drawings of huge crowds of individuals. Somewhere in that mass is “Wally” and you have to be the first to find him.

You could be efficient in doing this. Rather than scanning the entire page, you go across the image “line by line” until you find him. But that is very slow and tedious, and you get bored and give up. An alternative way is to divide the page up into sections and play with a group of friends. Each of you looks only at one section. This division of labour is less tedious, more fun, and much quicker in getting a result.

Think about this from a business perspective. Make people do more work by reducing the number of staff and it is indeed possible that individuals can take on the additional workload. But like looking for Wally line by line, it becomes tedious and time-consuming.

Alternatively, divide the work up between a group of people and it gets the work done more quickly and the teamwork becomes motivating, making work more enjoyable. When you reduce staff to save money, what happens is you end up spending more on recruiting because of the high churn of staff who no longer are motivated or enjoying their jobs.

When you have fewer people on the team, they end up with more things to do and cannot focus easily. They cannot see the wood for the trees, made worse by lack of enjoyment and motivation. Ask a child protection social worker.

It’s the same if you are a manager with dozens of people who report to you, or you are a teacher with a large class size, or an individual trying to work out what Donald Trump has specifically done wrong. Unable to see the detail, we can easily overlook what is important.

The answer to many business problems we all face these days is not cutting back. Rather it is having more people involved. We can only have low class sizes with more teachers. We can only have better management at work if we have more managers. We can only improve child protection with more social workers. And we can only fathom what Donald Trump is charged with if we have a team of lawyers able to filter through the dross.

Is your business guilty of trying to save money by reducing headcount? That’s the last thing you want to do if you want your staff to see the wood for the trees. As an example, I am contributing to a training project with a commercial client over the next few months. One person could have run the entire training programme, saving the client plenty of cash. However, I am part of a sizeable team meaning that each of us can focus on small details, seeing the wood for the trees. It is costing the client more money, but the outcome will be much better for them overall.



Graham Jones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who helps business understand online customer behaviour