Want Great Ideas? Use Smaller Creative Teams

I work with a few clients who feel like “the more the better” with creative work. They want everyone they can think of to be part of our creative or marketing meetings. But when it comes to brainstorming and creative teams, Jeff Bezos at Amazon.com says to keep them small.  Usually, when I’m involved in creative meetings with clients, most organizations want 20-30 people in the meetings and that’s just too large and unproductive a group to work. With a smaller group of key people, you don’t waste a lot of time and man hours on bad ideas. Plus, small groups move faster and are more nimble. Bezos thinks a group small enough to be fed off two pizzas is perfect.

In a Business Week magazine interview a year or so ago, Bezos said he likes to create what he calls a “culture of divine discontent.” That’s the feeling at an organization anything can be improved, anytime. Nothing is perfect and everyone is always looking for a better way. It reminded me of the Japanese word “Kaizen,” which means “continuous improvement.” Every second, every minute, every day, we can be more innovative and creative.

Have you experienced working on teams that are just too large to accomplish anything?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jenna

    Years ago, my church decided to create a musical play "in house" and started out with maybe 6-8 people writing the script. The first draft read-through was painful…The wide variations in writing styles and Scripture versions used made it SOUND like it had been written by a plethora of people. Eventually they narrowed it down to 2-3 people rewriting the script and it turned out to be a very good project…however, a lot of time and effort could have been saved and perhaps some hurt feelings could have been avoided by starting out with a smaller writing team and adding others if needed.

  • Great post.

    I’ll add that if you’re using a small team, say, 2-3 people, there isn’t any room for egos.  Each person has to want to work with each other, and sacrifice their ideas for the good of the project (organization, team, etc.).  It pays enormous dividends to trust each other: expect good things to come from the other members (and not just yourself!).

  • Osborn4

    I l ove the pizza metric. I’ll have to mention that to the head of our creative team.

  • Rob

    It takes two types to implement new ideas. The Dreamers and the Doers.

    Put the Dreamers in the first meeting and let them come up with the big ideas (without the techy types who’ll give all the reasons why it can’t be done.)

    Then pass the new ideas to the techy/project manager types, who know how to get things done, who understand implementing large initiatives, and who have the fortitude to see the ideas through to fulfillment.

  • Rick Wilson

    I will never forget walking into a room with a graphic designer in tow filled with 15 department heads to discuss a new church logo. After 45 minutes of each person giving their opinion – and another 20 minutes of discussion, we finally went outside to breathe fresh air. “I’m not sure I know what just happened in there,” my designer said. “I’ll handle it,” I said. A CLASSIC case of decision by committee and “death by meeting.” Logo got done with a smaller crew!!