The lowest common denominator

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A camel is a horse designed by a committee

This is one of my favourite expressions about the danger of innovation in large organisations.

It speaks to the sad truth that often, members of innovation teams in large organisations don’t want to shoulder the responsibility of an innovation or new idea not working out.

So when discussing new ideas, everyone’s input is treated with equal importance, as is the desire to come to consensus.

However, the desire for consensus can kill innovation drive and progress.

With people not wanting to offend anyone in the team, or alienate any of their potential customers, it feels much safer to reduce the riskiness of the idea. Remove things which the customer hasn’t explicitly said their want, or add in some new features which someone in a meeting thought of.

The result is that most new innovations developed in these teams move towards the lowest common denominators. The things which are guaranteed to work, because everyone knows they will work.

The problem is that this is not just boring, but uninspiring for customers.

By being designed for everybody, it ends up being designed for nobody.

Yes, small iterative improvements like this might keep a product evolving year after year, but only until someone else comes up with a completely new way to entice your customer.

Instead, successful innovations may be the result of a team, but they require a director.

Someone who is willing to say “This is the way we think it should be done”, and take responsibility for it.

This way, decisions can be made about who the innovation is for, and exactly what value it aims to deliver.

Are you willing to be this kind of director?

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