Monday, August 18, 2008

Jockeying with Camels


This is about to get controversial.

Today we explore the deeper implications of the proverb "a camel is a horse designed by a committee". Essentially, this phrase is used to condemn group decision-making, emphasizing the headache of incorporating too many conflicting opinions into a single project. In this figure of speech, the distinguishing features of a camel, (humps and cranky demeanour), are taken to be flaws that resulted from poor design.

"Design by Committee" causes needless complexity, wasted time and the lack of a unifying vision; cleverly portrayed in this video which shows us what the creative process would be like if the STOP sign was created in 2008.

The video illustrates not only the inherent flaw in a "design by committee" approach but also the "spine of a jellyfish" character of the designer. Do you think any designer or creative person worth their salt would permit that level of bastardization of their work? At one point does a professional speak up in an attempt to STOP this Insanity? Are there not cases when the customer is not always "right" and as such requires a caring and courageous professional to save them from themselves?

If you are that designer or "creative" type (writer, videographer, sculptor etc.), it would appear that if "they" came up with the camel, then by default "you" have become its jockey. Hey, you let the nonsense happen against your better judgment and it's your signature on the work.

If you are the "customer" in this scenario think of it this way. The next time you are in a meeting with a "creative" type and they start defending their work with passion, disagreeing with the 47 changes you want to make, perhaps it's because they DO know what they're doing and have the balls to stand up for their craft - even at the risk of insulting you or losing your business. Maybe it's because they can see a thoroughbred that you can't.

Not every jockey can ride a thoroughbred. Do you think this video sheds any light on why it's so rare to see Triple Crown winners in any business or profession?

What are your thoughts?

P.S...The origins of "a camel is a horse designed by committee" has been attributed to Vogue magazine, July 1958 and also to University of Wisconsin philosophy professor Lester Hunt.

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