Crowds are Dull, Committees are Deadly, Creativity Needs Freedom

Crowds are Dull, Committees are Deadly, Creativity Needs Freedom

“The committee is usually wrong; yet the crowd is commonly right and incredibly dull. If you’re part of the crowd you’ll be sourced and forgotten.”

I’ve Tweeted this statement a few times to gauge response.  My aim is to demonstrate that creativity has an individual source.  Whether we talk about the wisdom of crowds, group think or committee decisions, true brilliance comes from an individual, were,  in contrast, group worth is measured in evaluation, validation, and exploration.

Within each committee is a devil’s advocate – in this case not the anti-Christ but the anti-creative.  Creative teams are highly successful (if kept nimble) but I challenge anyone to find a good creative team staffed with devil’s advocates or those with outside agendas or unruly egos.

By far, the best (or worst) example of committee is most recently the U.S. Congress.  Ignoring its tragedy, there is comedy it the way a group can come up with a product absolutely no one finds entirely attractive.

Source a crowd and what do you find?  If you’re lucky, one individual with a great idea ready to be diluted by the committee or – much better – open it up to be altered to fit by another individual or creative team.  Either way, you get my drift.  Crowds are dull – it’s up to you to find the brilliance through open sources or create it yourself .

Ji Lee demonstrated the value of open creativity with The Bubble Project.  It didn’t involve a committee. It sources a crowd. It highlights the brilliance of individuals.  Yet, he was the catalyst for the disruptive idea.  He found the brilliance.

More on Ji Lee

Ji Lee Biography via 99%

Born in Seoul, Korea, and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Ji Lee studied design at Parsons School of Design. He currently works as the Creative Director at Google Creative Lab in New York and teaches design at School of Visual Arts. In the past, Lee has worked as the branding director at Droga5 and art director at Saatchi & Saatchi.

Ji Lee is the founder of the widely publicized Bubble Project and the author of two books: Talk Back: The Bubble Project and Univers Revolved: a 3-Dimensional Alphabet.

Lee has given numerous lectures, including Harvard University, MIT and MoMA. Lee’s work has appeared in ABC World News, The New York Times, Newsweek, The Guardian, WIRED among others.

Creativity, Crowd Sourcing, marketing, Open Source, Video

5 Responses to “Crowds are Dull, Committees are Deadly, Creativity Needs Freedom”

  1. John Romano Says:

    Often the lone artist creates something brilliant. Ji Lee’s Bubble project is a fantastic example.

    The problem is that large projects or campaign are no longer the result of a single stroke of brilliance because they require the talents of different kinds of people. The trick is finding the smallest group, who have all the necessary talents, to work together.

    • Bruce DeBoer Says:

      Complexity takes collaboration for sure. It’s most interesting to me that you emphasized the need for finding the smallest group of talent appropriate for the project. My take away from that smaller groups allow the individual to operate as free as possible within a collaborative project. Thanks John.

  2. David Burney Says:

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but I’m not convinced that the statement that leads this post is accurate or fair, Bruce. While it’s easy to lump all groups together into one mass, there is substantial difference between committees and teams; clubs and communities; marketing campaigns and movements.

    Is the creation of the alphabet any less significant because it lacks a designated genius to attribute it to? Is sending a man to the moon less brilliant than the invention of geometry simply because we can’t point to an individual like Euclid? What was more brilliant: Jefferson’s prose or the Continental Congress’ creation? Was George Carlin more brilliant than Monty Python?

    I’m just not convinced that one form of brilliance is more brilliant that the other?

    Clearly, there is great brilliance in the individual–that should continue to be acknowledged and celebrated. But it simply doesn’t follow logically that the ‘crowd’ or a community or a movement of people can’t be brilliant too. I’m afraid the open source development community is ample proof that a community can be brilliant. Yet, within that same community individual participants such as Linus Torvald proves that attribution need not be an issue. Check out the Creative Commons.

    As for the crowd being boring, mention that to any Dead Head and see what their response is.

    Nah. I don’t think so.

  3. Bruce DeBoer Says:

    I’ll bet we agree but a short post is getting in the way. Using the alphabet as an example:

    The alphabet is useful, like a commodity, but a beautiful typeface doesn’t often come from committees does it?

    Creative collaboration isn’t what I consider “a crowd” nor is an open source community a committee.

    I’m not sure I get the Dead Head reference. The Dead leveraged their crowds that were full of extremely creative people, but from a distance – they look like every other crowd.

    I think the missed communication is in the difference between creative collaboration and committees; communities and crowds. One has creative freedom and one doesn’t.


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