Why It’s Time to Give Up On Your Desire for Consensus

If you want to kill vision, form a committee. The committee will beat the life out of any innovation you bring to the table.

I don’t know why this is true, but it’s often easier for a team of people to adapt to a bold idea and make it better than it is for a team to come up with a bold idea. This isn’t always the case, but in many instances, I think it is. I dream in teams and I encourage people to dream alone, but often the best ideas come from one person.


So you’d love to get everyone to buy into your idea, don’t you?

Church leaders (and many other organizational leaders) are famous for trying to get consensus around an idea before launching it.

I get that.

But consensus has a cost. A big cost. Here it is:

Consensus kills courage. 

Very few good, innovative ideas gain consensus before a leader acts.

In fact, most great new ideas worth anything are divisive right out of the gate.

As a result, leaders shrink back. They smell the tension, and they back off. They try to get too much buy-in on the front end, and their vision doesn’t actually become better, it just becomes diluted.

As a result, too many leaders lose hope, passion and vision.

Why is that? How can you turn it around?

Think about how different history would be if great leaders always needed consensus from the people they led:

Moses would have left the Israelites in slavery.

Jesus would have listened to the disciples and talked himself out of the cross.

Peter would never have given up his kosher diet.

The apostle Paul would have gone back to Phariseeism.

Martin Luther would have waited for his bishop to approve.

Martin Luther King would have delayed until legislators were sympathetic.

Even Henry Ford, inventor of the assembly line and first mass producer of cars, famously said that if he’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses.”

Any time you’re seeking to bring about radical change, most people will think it’s a terrible idea. And sometimes, they’re right.

But there are other times where they’re not.

You should live for the ‘once in a while’ idea. It’s the kind of idea that changes everything.

When it comes to courageous change, here are four things that are true:

  1. Consensus on the front end kills courage

If you look for consensus during a season of innovation, it will almost always strip the courage out of your idea.

Trying to find consensus while mining for fresh ideas results in diluted ideas because people often don’t realize what they need before they see it.

No one needed smart phones…until the smartphone was invented. Now try to remove it from the marketplace or your life.

Even the electric light bulb was seen as a stupid idea. Scientist Henry Morton of the Stevens Institute of Technology predicted the light bulb would be ‘a conspicuous failure.’ A British parliamentary committee concluded the light bulb was ‘good enough for our transatlantic … but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.’

And if you are looking for courage, few things will kill it faster than the drive for early consensus.

The best idea only looks like the best idea after it wins.

  1. Individuals are almost always more courageous than teams
  2. You shouldn’t walk alone, but innovation may require you to start alone
  3. Great ideas gain consensus on the back end

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