When I was recently leading a large innovation program, I was governed by a committee comprised of key leaders and business presidents. Because of the committee structure and their familiarity with operations and strategy, revolutionary innovations that were contrary to our current operations or strategy often languished. I witnessed that committees were very good at making decisions based on the lowest common denominator of our existing business, but were very inefficient at making disruptive decisions that stepped out of our current way of thinking. Ideas that were directly aligned with both operational expertise and strategic goals were readily accepted (and even embraced) by committees, but ideas that weren't aligned with the status quo were simply not accepted.
The chart above illustrates my point. Those ideas that are in the lower left quadrant are readily embraced by committees, but those ideas (depicted by the red stars) that don’t align with operational expertise or strategy are not embraced. Unfortunately, most ideas that align with current operational expertise and strategy are not disruptive. Therefore, a committee-based decision process usually leads to ignoring the more revolutionary ideas in favor of the more incremental ones. Now that I work with other companies, I see that there are definitely exceptions to my experiences, but for the most part the nature of committees can cause them to design a camel when they really desire a horse. For innovation, I still see very little benefit in having group decision makers. Let one person be the decision maker; and let one person be responsible and accountable. A committee is a slippery slope in which good ideas are lured in, trapped and then transformed into mediocrity. To create horses instead of camels, avoid using committees.