Include more than 8 people in the decision making process

…and they’ll find it almost impossible to decide

New Scientist recently featured research proving how difficult it was for more than eight people to reach consensus. Apparently fewer than eight people can make decisions relatively efficiently and effectively. But the moment you hit eight things go dog-shaped.

It makes sense to me. In the olden days when I was a financial services direct marketer, getting copy approval from big blue chip insurance clients was always a complete nightmare. Because copy and creative had to go through multiple departments and individuals for approval – invariably more than eight – we’d get trapped in a horrible Groundhog Day scenario. Every time we marketers thought we could go to print the artwork would embark on yet another spontaneous round of the same people and departments, all of whom felt they had to approve their colleagues’ approvals.

OK, the campaign would eventually get approved. But the copy was almost always reduced either to gobbledegook or something so bland you might as well have sent wallpaper. Remember Kyoto, and more recently Copenhagen? In retrospect it seems naive to expect consensus from more than 100 heads of state…

Conclusion: if you want solid, sensible consensus decisions that’ll benefit your business, don’t involve more than seven people in making them. The fewer the better. Decisions made by committee are almost always bad ones.