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Design by committee illustration: A person demonstrates a camel as the solution to all the requirements for Horse 2.0

Design by committee

A camel is a horse designed by a committee, so the saying goes.

It's not fair on camels, which are remarkable animals, but the idea that meeting everyone's requirements leads to a weaker product without a strong vision has a lot of truth to it.

Like a remote control with 50 buttons or a policy so watered-down by different requirements that it has no effect, design by committee can be the death of an initiative. Part of strong product leadership and creating designs that wow is having an opinion, saying no, and not trying to please everybody. Much easier said than done.

To bring it home, the movie Pentagon Wars has an entertaining satirical scene about the evolution of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (11 mins). The clip shows how the plan for an infantry transport vehicle became "a troop transport that can't carry troops, a reconnaissance vehicle that's too conspicuous to do reconnaissance. And a quasi-tank that has less armor than a snow-blower but has enough ammo to take out half of D.C." Perhaps most informative is the effect on the motivation and morale of the designers—"Can you make it amphibious?"

Also see: groupthink, the tyranny of small decisions, the Abilene paradox, the bandwagon effect.

Or Jeff Bezos' guidance: Be stubborn on vision. Be flexible on details.

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