It can be tempting to push for consensus from a wide team in a creative project. Yet in design, consensus makes no one happy. TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington shared this perspective:
“There’s a saying I love: “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” A variation is “a Volvo is a Porsche designed by committee.” When there are too many cooks in the kitchen all you get is a mess. And when too many people have product input, you’ve got lots of features but no soul.”
Democracies don’t work in product development. Neither do unhappy compromises or peace treaties. We need to be leaders that make unpopular calls to keep an idea focused. Otherwise, we end up with a lack of a vision, internal inconsistencies, feature creep, and uninspired products.
“Product should be a dictatorship. Not consensus driven. There are casualties. Hurt feelings. Angry users. But all of those things are necessary if you’re going to create something unique. The iPhone is clearly a vision of a single core team, or maybe even one man. It happened to be a good dream, and that device now dominates mobile culture. But it’s extremely unlikely Apple would have ever built it if they conducted lots of focus groups and customer outreach first. No keyboard? Please.”
In 2006, the Microsoft design team put together the following teaching aid for Microsoft marketers. The parody video, “If Microsoft Designed the iPod Packaging”, leaked, went viral, and became a cautionary tale for all marketers.
One size never fits all. One size fits none.