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Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup

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"My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty... it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein."

The more people there are working on something, the less likely they are to succeed.

Basically, this rule is just that: the more people that attempt something, the less competent they become at accomplishing said task. Inversely, ventures made solo, especially in the case of Last of His Kind on a mission, are almost sure to succeed (unless there's An Aesop about teamwork).

A good example is in Superhero stories, wherein a singular villain may be a match for an entire team of superheroes, but if said villain joins a group of villains, suddenly they lose to just one of them. Similarly, a villain may be taking down entire groups of superheroes, but when one hero steps out to take them on alone, watch out. Of course, villain team-ups are also prone to a different problem entirely.

This is generally Truth in Television — sometimes too many people working on a project results in nothing getting done, possibly because everyone thinks someone else will do it, or because of conflicts over direction (a phenomenon known as Parkinson's Law of Triviality). A Troubled Production often comes from different goals being laid out or changing course mid-development. This can even be seen on Internet forums, where the more people that engage in an argument, the less reasonable the conversation generally becomes (Nazis or otherwise).

This is the super trope of several other rules, notably Conservation of Ninjutsu, which applies this principle to ninjas and other supposedly-elite fighters, and Conservation of Competence, which applies this to intelligence in evil structures. Is usually caused by Poor Communication Kills as each person makes decisions without consulting the rest. Possibly related to, or even caused by, Sturgeon's Law. Executive Meddling is often a good example of this trope in action. Contrast More Dakka and its related tropes, where more cooks are seen to make the soup better in any case.

Also note that this can specifically be invoked as An Aesop, generally when something straightforward starts to involve too many people and therefore ends up A Simple Plan. As An Aesop, it contrasts well with Stone Soup. In almost all cases, it ends up being a cause of Unwanted Assistance. If the various people/factions are engaged in some sort of opposition to a common enemy, We ARE Struggling Together is usually the result, as the people who should be on the same side disagree about details and turn against each other rather than unite.

Compare Two Rights Make a Wrong and Abilene Paradox, when a group decides upon a course of action that none of the individual members actually want to do because they think the others want it. Contrast The Power of Friendship. Can sometimes result from Right Hand Versus Left Hand.

Not to be confused with the theatre show, [adult swim] short or novel of the same name.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In episode 13 of Amagi Brilliant Park, Tricen is told by Seiya that his first promotional video for the park is too bland, and has him redo it with more input from the other characters. They give him varying suggestions based on what they think it should include, such as Moffle wanting more action-oriented stuff. When Seiya sees the second video, he wonders what the heck it's supposed to be about, and ends up running the first video instead. Tricen then reveals that he uploaded the second video online, and Seiya is shocked to find out that its garnered almost a million and a half views, along with over seventy thousand comments.
  • Nanamine of Bakuman。, in his contempt of editors, attempted to create a manga by gathering a group of fifty people online and forming a conference from them. Though the initial results are good, the manga is cluttered from Nanamine attempting to stuff too many ideas into the work without following his editor's advice and by chapter three the series dropped to ninth place in the rankings. Things only get worse for him from then on.
  • In the Oracion Seis arc of Fairy Tail, the heroes initially lose miserably when they all fight together against the villains at the start (granted, they were ambushed, so that also lowered their chances). When they split up and fight the villains alone or in pairs, they suddenly win all their battles.
  • One Franken Fran story ends this way. A rich man plots to capture his niece's inheritance (along with every other one of her relatives) by being put into her brain-dead body. Once he realizes just how much her relatives destroyed her life, Fran transfers the rest of the family's minds into the body after an accident, and now they can't take a single action if they aren't all in agreement (with the uncle deliberately vetoing every action to get back at them).
  • Episode 1 of Osomatsu-san has Osomatsu try to come up with a way to make his series more accessible to modern audiences. He decides to go with an idol anime, but the plan started falling apart when more and more genres started coming into the forefront.
  • In season 2 of School Rumble, much of the cast attends a potluck dinner which they completely ruin by various people adding stupid things to the food. However, the weirder the ingredients, the better the batch turned out to be.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in The Dandy. Harry Hill asks how many cooks is too many, leading to Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay to put their own ingredients in it. After they don’t spoil the broth, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall dumps multiple dead animals in the pot, with Harry declaring that Hugh has spoiled the broth.
  • Dilbert:
    • There was a strip where this trope is compressed into a proper theory: The combined IQ of any team starts at 100 for one participant, with 5 points deducted for every additional member to the team.
    • Another time it was expressed as equaling the IQ of the dumbest member, divided by the number of members. note 
  • The Far Side had one strip with a bunch of scientists arguing with the caption "Another case of too many mad doctors and not enough hunchbacks."

    Fan Works 
  • Played with for "Like Broken Glass" when Kate Beckett's team, Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, Anthony DiNozzo and Ziva David, and Kensi Blye and Marty Deeks all end up investigating the same case; Barry Frost and a naval officer were found dead in New York, with Jane wanting to investigate her partner's death, Kensei being an old friend of Frost's, and NCIS lacking the resources to conduct the case on their own. The expanded team initially have some problems coordinating to give everyone involved in the case something to do, but they manage to determine that Frost caught the other officer taking part in a planned terrorist attack on a naval yard, and then interrupt said plan.
  • Substitute "soup" with "cake", and you have the title of this Torchwood one-shot that's Exactly What It Says on the Tin, in that the main team's attempt at baking together devolves into in-fighting that ruins everything they try to make.
    Owen's gaze shifted between them. "Flour and butter and sugar and lemon juice…" he trailed off, but the others continued to glare at him. "… and vanilla essence and ginger and nutmeg and tarragon and five spice and chilli[sic] powder." he admitted. "And some of the water from Gwen's dates too, I think. Nothing inedible."
  • Rise of the Galeforces, according to its own author, is a meta example of this trope that nicely demonstrates how it can be pulled off by a single person. The story starts off as a fanfic of The Incredibles with a sensible premise, that being the resurrection of Posthumous Characters and how they'd handle the circumstances of the current time of the film. As the writing of the fic progressed, however, the author's preferences changed drastically enough that at various points throughout its production, many, many elements and characters of other movies, cartoons, and even video games, among other things, were introduced that ultimately derailed the original concept. By the time the latter chapters of the story were published, it had become a nearly incomprehensible Massive Multiplayer Crossover with the Incredibles characters being sidelined as much as everyone else.
  • Using all the Miraculous from the start: The premise is that during Hawkmoth's initial debut, Master Fu sent out ''all' the Miraculouses to their new wielders to stop him. The result is nothing but chaos. Chat Noir and King Monkey keep crashing into each other when trying to charge at an Akuma, Ladybug, Queen Bee, and Pegasus all try to take charge and leave everyone else confused; and Viperion and Bunnyx are overwhelmed when trying to find a safe path through time. This allows Hawkmoth to effortless defeat them in the confusion.
  • Deliberately invoked in Twitch Plays Pokémon. Having 100,000+ people input commands for a game of Pokemon Red (and afterwards, one game from each pair of main series games, all the way to Gen 8.) The results are hilarious, from having the player walk in weird directions to typing gibberish into text fields (mostly when naming players or Pokémon) to making really silly decisions (like releasing their starter, for instance).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Adua and Her Friends: The exact words "too many cooks" are said when the girls in the restaurant do, in fact, spoil the food, after three of them independently add salt to the sauce.
  • Ford V Ferrari is about the Real Life story of developing the Ford GT40 to compete with Ferrari at the Le Mans 24 Hour race. This was a project backed by Henry Ford Jr. himself, and by the time Carrol Shelby asks Ken Miles to get involved Ken outlines how every executive in the company is going to demand the smallest changes in order to take some credit. While there are multiple teams brought in to refine the car Ford has been building, Shelby and Miles end up going the distance because they had both an innate understanding of the mechanics of the vehicle and were expert drivers able to use every adjustment and modification to its fullest.
  • The Pentagon Wars details how this happened with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Originally designed as a troop carrier by Colonel Smith, the committee he answered to made constant revisions of the design until it couldn't do anything well. Too slow and big to be a scout, but too bulked up with ammo and weapons to be a troop carrier, and not enough armor to stand up against actual tanks. The result was that the Bradley was in development for seventeen years and went billions of dollars over budget.
  • Played with in State Fair: Melissa refuses Abel's suggestion to sweeten the mincemeat with brandy, so Abel decides to add some without her noticing. After he leaves, Melissa decides to add some brandy herself. Even though the dish ends up having an abnormally high alcohol level, the judges still reward Melissa with a blue ribbon.

  • In one of Aesop's Fables, a man and his boy are taking a donkey to the marketplace to sell. He passes by several groups of individuals who make criticisms of how he goes about transporting the donkey (e.g., "Look at that selfish man, riding a donkey and making his son walk behind him on foot.") Eventually, he decides to hogtie the donkey and carry it on a pole. But this proves to be the worst idea yet, since the donkey struggles against being tied up, falls into a river, and drowns. The now-donkeyless man goes home, reflecting on how he shouldn't have felt the need to change his practices every time someone made a criticism. The moral of the story: "If you try to please everyone, you may as well kiss your ass goodbye."
  • In a similar Arabic folktale, the father (a bit of a Trickster archetype) wants to teach his son the dangers of relying too much on others' opinions. At the end, when he and his son are carrying the donkey between them, a mob cries that they are insane and they are taken to jail.

  • Piers Anthony once wrote about how a writer, by following the advice of the various magazine editors to whom he submits his story, ends up transforming his story into something entirely different from what it started out as. (Piers Anthony hates editors.)
  • Used literally in Anne of Avonlea at a dinner party; everyone involved in making the meal adds a little sugar to the peas because they all think no one else will remember to.
  • A Little Golden Book featuring Donald Duck had Donald in the studio while the writers are storyboarding his next cartoon. Each of the writers keeps adding in things they think should be in the cartoon (like the nephews and Chip N' Dale) to the point where there is no room for Donald in the cartoon. Donald proceeds to blow his top and start screaming at the writers.
  • In Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent, this is how the Discworld got the duck-billed platypus, no thanks to a group of temporally-displaced wizards from Unseen University (and a demonstration on the saying that a platypus looks like a duck designed by committee).
    • In The Last Hero, Vetinari deals with this sort of problem in his truly magnificent style; when leaders from hundreds of nations come to Ankh-Morpork to discuss how they're going to stop Cohen the Barbarian and the Silver Horde from blowing up the world, he has them form committees and then locks them in the room. Then, while they're arguing, he takes a few of the people he knows aside and tells them how they're going to save the world.
    • A Roundworld proverb has it that the camel is a horse designed by committee.
      • On the other hand, a horse couldn't do a lot of the things people use camels for, but camels can do almost everything a horse can do besides "look pretty".
    • Small Gods has a multinational coalition invade Omnia to put an end to them once and for all. Except no one's in charge, but every general thinks he is (Except for the swamp fisherman who got caught up in the invasion fleet by accident and has no clue what's going on).

    Live-Action TV 
  • The [adult swim] short appropriately titled Too Many Cooks is a satire/deconstruction of this trope occurring in television, mocking the tendency for shows to be given far more writers and producers than needed with the result that they lose their original vision. This is represented by the show starting off as a retraux family sitcom, only for the opening credits to suddenly extend with more and more characters, and the show loses track of what it's supposed to be. It cycles through numerous genres, settings, and casts all of whom grow increasingly confused and mixed up. Things go even further off the rails when a nameless Killer starts trying to off the cast so he can take the show for himself. Said Killer is strongly implied by Word of God to be the original main character of the show before it got butchered by new writers, trying to retake his show out of jealousy.
  • In the Adventures in Wonderland episode "Her-Story in the Making," Alice needs to write a story for a school assignment, but has trouble coming up with good idea, so the Hatter and Hare offer to write it for her. But the various other Wonderland characters end up making contributions too. The end result is nonsensical even for Wonderland and Alice learns An Aesop about doing her own work.
  • The point of Extras: Andy's sitcom gets picked up, but he allows the producers' suggestions to turn it from a witty character study and commentary on office life to a cheesy, lowbrow Work Com.
  • In one episode of Gilligan's Island, Skipper sleepwalks and dreams about one time when he converted a radio into a transmitter. In order to repeat it in order to get the castaways rescued, he tries to go to sleep, but has a hard time. Gilligan then borrows some tranquilizers from Mr. Howell and puts them in Skipper's mango juice. However, the Professor, Ginger, and Marie Ann also add two tranquilizers without anyone else knowing. Finally, when Skipper sees the bottle of tranquilizers, he takes two before drinking his mango juice, resulting in him knocked out.
    The Professor: (As he and Gilligan try to get Skipper on his feet) I had no idea that four tranquilizers could produce this much of an affect!
    Ginger: Six!
    Mary Ann: Eight!
    Gilligan: Ten! (Skipper falls on top of him) And he's out.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 would occasionally comment on films with a large number of writers, producers, etc. For example, in Space Mutiny:
    Mike: Passed from editor to editor in a desperate attempt to save it!
  • Saturday Night Live demonstrates this in a skit that pokes fun at overstuffed songs with many singers. It starts with just three rappers (Big Chris, Shantasia, and Yung Bitch). Then four more join in (Prinsexxxy, Sno'Cone, Sloppy Moses, and Marci Jamz). Then another group (King Keef, Lil' Nitwit, 2 Black Guyz, Hawt Clown, Pregnasty, and Skiffle), followed by two more (Katy Perry and Kathleen Bell), and finally by two more (Essentially Simon and David S. Pimpkins). When they finally start rapping, it turns into a nightmare with everyone singing their own song. Big Chris finally puts a stop to it, just before a final MC jumps out (Dat Snatch).
    Big Chris: Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! That did not work! It's like I feared, there's too many people on this track. I'm sorry, y'all.
  • Silicon Valley is about the ups and downs of the tech industry, and ends up demonstrating this trope several times.
    • Gavin Belson offered Richard Hendricks several million dollars for his revolutionary compression algorithm Pied Piper, but after Richard decides to develop it himself Gavin commissions the Nucleus team to reverse engineer an early beta they had of the algorithm to avoid copyright and beat it to market through sheer monetary resources that Richard didn't have. Richard then improved his algorithm four-fold through some modifications and even though Nucleus would be a great product in its' current state Gavin throws even more money to bloat the software in a desperate attempt to one-up Richard. The end result was that Nucleus didn't have a stable enough engine for all the features they were pushing through, leading to a disastrous launch and Nucleus being dead on arrival.
    • Richard was getting some major funding offers for Pied Piper, with the fledging company being set on receiving 20 million dollars with a value of 200 million dollars. Monica, his venture capitalist contact, advised him to aim low instead of taking the biggest offer. The reason was that when you take so much money from investors they want to see results right away, and if your stock dips even a little that would be grounds for removing him from the company. After consulting with a colleague where that exact thing happened to him, Richard decided to aim for a more modest investment that would avoid that level of scrutiny.
  • 30 Rock:
    • In an episode, Jack recruits some of the writers to help him come up with a new microwave oven. When all their suggestions are combined he ends up with a Pontiac Aztek.
    • In another episode, when Tracy is even later for rehearsal than usual:
      Liz: How did this happen? I had Grizz call him at eight o'clock this morning and pretend it was eleven.
      Pete: I printed up that fake rehearsal schedule for him saying we were starting at nine instead of noon.
      Kenneth: Oh, and I set all his watches and clocks to say p.m. when it's really a.m.!
      Liz: Oh, boy, we may have overdone it.
      Tracy: [entering] WHAT THE HELL TIME IS IT?


    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • The in-universe fluff regarding the Thresher Battlemech, which is a serious Master of None design, is that it was designed by a committee who took turns making minor changes to it until everyone was equally dissatisfied with the results.
    • The Peacekeeper Battlemech is similar. After the Republic of the Sphere was founded by integrating a large chunk of territory from each of the 5 Successor States, a conference was held to discuss the new state's security, beginning with the design of a new Battlemech. Predictably, the people who'd been in the governments of each of the Successor States started arguing with each other, until the person leading the conference got fed up and shouted that they shouldn't have to play peacekeeper for the rest of them. This gave them the idea for the mech's name, and they each took turns giving input onto what its weaponry should be, resulting in a mess of different guns that didn't give good firing brackets and consequently left it struggling to actually be effective in a fight. This was Futureshadowing of the way the Republic was going to fall into chaos and infighting when the Dark Age hit.
  • The Sidereals in Exalted tend towards this. It's actually part of the rules that the more people that are present, the stupider their decisions are likely to be. In the backstory this tendency is one of the key reasons the world is now in such a perilous state.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • One future arc strip of Arthur, King of Time and Space had Morgan avoiding helping with an engine problem, citing she hated being the "too manyth" cook.
  • Exploited by Dr. Bowman in Freefall. When designing the Bowman's Wolves, Dr. Bowman wanted them to be completely capable of free will, with their human safeguards being more like guidelines than actual rules, while some of his human co-workers wanted the safeguards to have certain dogmatic overriding limitations. However, they couldn't agree on which limitations were needed, and Dr. Bowman encouraged them all to consider their idea the only acceptable one, until the project ran out of time and none of them could be implemented at all, just like he wanted.
  • Used in a surprisingly dark and serious manner in The Order of the Stick. When the gods were first weaving together the world from the fabrics of reality, their bickering and fighting over how they wanted aspects of the world resulted in the fabrics getting tangled together, eventually forming the Snarl.
  • xkcd: This strip posits that Iceland was designed by a committee that was trying to satisfy everyone.

    Web Videos 
  • Internet video critic SF Debris usually makes sure to point out which episodes have too many cooks by calling a bloated writing credit "the wall of text" or something similarly sarcastic.
  • The Spoony Experiment: Dr. Insano notes that the shlock '80s fantasy film The Dungeonmaster had seven directorsnote . And yet none of them seem to have stuck around long enough to film an ending; the movie just sort of stops 20 seconds after the climax.

    Western Animation 
  • A minor example in one episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears: Cubbi, Sunni, and Tummi have sneaked into Castle Dunwyn in the hopes of using the pressure cooker there to replicate a famous chef's recipe for taffy. This goes wrong early on, when each of them add ingredients to the pot without realizing the others have done so already - all the more since Tummi dumps his ingredients in along with their containers. It's no surprise that the entire endeavor goes explosively wrong in the end.
  • In the Arthur episode "Arthur Writes a Story," for a school assignment, Arthur writes out the story of how he got his dog Pal. But each of his friends whom he shares it with call it boring and offer suggestions to make it "better," which he takes. He ends up writing a country-western musical set in outer space in which Pal is a striped elephant, and after his friends hear it, they much prefer his original version.
  • Used in ChalkZone, where Rudy and Penny are trying to design a robot, but because they have different views on how it should work (Penny wants it to be helpful, Rudy wants it to be a superweapon), the design turns out a mess and after being erased, the robot goes on a helpful/destructive rampage in Chalkzone. Even worse, Rudy's Arch Enemies Scrawl and Craniac discover it and decide to use it in a scheme they were concocting.
  • The Darkwing Duck episode "Comic Book Capers" has Darkwing preparing to pitch a comic book of his fabulous adventures, but he keeps getting called away from his typewriter. Other characters study his pitch while he's away and decide to "improve" it, resulting in the comic book storyline going completely Off the Rails.
  • Doug:
    • Seen in a comic, where the title character makes a gravy boat, but after being mocked, turns to his friends for help, ending up with something resembling a jet pack crossed with a water gun. Fortunately, he decided to go back to his original design before it was too late.
    • The same thing happens when Doug tries to form a band; everyone wants in, and it quickly becomes an unmanageable mess. It really didn't help that the Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense member of the group insisted he had to "think big". It's fortunate for Doug that he left before the whole thing imploded.
  • Ducktales 2017: In "The Duck Knight Returns!", what we see of Alistair Boorswan's vision for a Darker and Edgier Darkwing Duck reboot movie already seems pretentious and incomprehensible, to the ire of Dewey and Launchpad who are both fans of the original series. All Scrooge and Dewey's last minute re-shoots to try and appeal to the show's target audience (namely children) succeed at is make the movie even worse. To top it off, Jim Starling, who is outraged that Boorswan didn't involve him in the reboot or even notify him, causes chaos when he makes an attempt on the life of the new lead, Drake Mallard. And to top that off, despite Boorswan wanting to use the footage of Mallard and Starling's face-off, Dewey taped it over by accident, leading to a fed-up Scrooge canceling the project entirely.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy, Eddy has a habit of not measuring ingredients in cooking and simply using as much of it as he can find:
    • In "Over Your Ed", Edd is counting grains of sugar to add to their energy drinks. He asks Eddy to help him. While Edd is looking away, Eddy adds one full bag of sugar into the energy drink. The end result? The energy drink has tons of sugar in it (unbeknown to Edd), Edd tastes tests it and goes hyper due to sugar rush.
    • In "Who, What, Where, Ed", while making omelettes Edd uses a spoon to take a small amount of butter from a stick. Eddy thanks him and takes the rest of the stick.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "Castle Sweet Castle", the girls decide to decorate Twilight's new castle when they find out that she's been doing everything she could to stay out of it, in an attempt to make it comfortable. When the girls work together, they end up with a room that's more suited to their styles and not Twilight, but working separately, the rooms they hit end up being much more sensible.
    • Again in "Uprooted", when the Young Six can't agree on how to properly honor the Tree of Harmony after its destruction. They go to work on their own projects, only to get in each other's way and wreck everything; it's only when they start working together that they come up with a halfway decent plan.
  • In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "No Rabbit's A Fortress", Rabbit gets trapped in a fortress he built without a door, and Gopher decides to blast him out with dynamite. Before pushing his Plunger Detonator, he comments that only a single keg of dynamite would be necessary...not knowing that Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet had each added a keg to the pile.
  • In an Oswald episode, Oswald decides to build a bird house and each of his friends offer suggestions to add things that "birds like" such as painted polka dots, flowers, and bells. This results in a cluttered mess that the birds can't even figure out how to get inside. A rain storm washes away all the additions and Oswald realizes that birds like a simple bird house.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • In one episode, Professor Utonium creates a new pet called B.E.E.B.O, telling the girl that he only needed to be fed one time in his life. Unfortunately, the girls each fed him without the others knowing, resulting in B.E.E.B.O growing gigantic and going on a ravenous eating rampage.
    • A literal example occurs in "Reeking Havoc". The Professor tries to make an entry for Townsville's Annual Chili Cook-Off, and for the final ingredient, he spices it up with a tiny drop of Chemical X. Unfortunately, the girls, trying to help him winnote , each add a drop more to the chili (with Bubbles tossing in the whole bottle). The resulting concoction gives everybody a bad case of gas that ends up creating a gigantic methane monster.
  • Shown in one of the "Aesop and Son" segments of Rocky and Bullwinkle. In the tale, a bunch of animals cook a stew but won't let a bear eat any of it because he didn't contribute any ingredients. After spending the episode trying to catch a goldfish, the fish tricks the dimwitted bear with an undersea mine it had painted golden. The other animals aren't any smarter and also think it's a goldfish. Boom. When Aesop tries to give the aesop "Too many cooks spoil the broth", his son is Comically Missing the Point because the story was about stew instead of broth.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show", the producers of "Itchy and Scratchy" decide the show needs a new hip, young character to improve its ratings. The result is a Poochie, a character largely designed by committee ("Can we put him in more of a hip-hop context?", "He's gotta be a surfer", "I feel we should rastafy him by 10% or so") that everyone despises after his first episode airs.
    • The reason Apu and Manjula got octuplets is because when conceiving, Manjula took fertility drugs...while Apu, Homer, Marge, and Bart slipped her some more without each other knowing.

    Real Life 
  • Related quote: "It's better for a ship to have one bad captain than two good ones."
    • Related is the Bystander Effect, where the more individuals on hand at a crisis, the more likely they are all to stand there and do nothing. An individual who witnesses a catastrophe usually feels a personal obligation to act if they can, or at least scream for help if they cannot. A crowd feels Diffusion of Responsibility and is more likely to stand there.
      • For this reason, from CPR trainees to physicians, responders are generally trained not to ask a crowd for help. They are trained to single out someone who looks half-way responsible and clearly identify them, then put them on the spot to help. "Hey, you, with the glasses in the blue polo shirt. Yes, you. Call 911 right now. Borrow a phone if you have to, but call 911 right now!" works better than standing in front of twenty people shouting, "Someone call 911!"
    • Militaries and first responders to a crisis have (under optimal conditions) a clear chain of command just to avoid this trope. Additionally, a proper chain of command is designed so down to the lowest levels, beheading the organization still leaves it unambiguous who should be in charge.
  • The Jargon File contains the analogous entry for Brooks' Law, which states that "Adding manpower to a late project makes it later", with mathematical justification; dividing a task among N people gets the work done in O(N) time, but actually coordinating that work and getting it merged back into a completed project takes O(N^2) because of duplication, intercommunication problems (two people on a project have one line of communication (A<->B); four people have six), and general laziness (if there's a hundred people on a task, there will be a few who think they don't need to pull their weight and a general tendency to try to foist the difficult parts onto someone else).
  • An image macro from The Hangover breaks down the participants in a project into four archetypes: one guy does most of the work and goes insane before the end, one has no clue what he's doing, one does nothing but complain, and the last one shows up only in the final stages but gets credit anyway.
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is under the joint jurisdiction of the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac Orthodox Churches. This resulted in a state where pretty much nothing gets done, and the common areas of the church are generally in a state of disrepair because any rearranging of the furniture requires a consensus by all 6 churches. Famously, a dispute has resulted in a ladder remaining on the facade of the church for 250 years. During the Crusades, when the churches appealed to Saladin to obtain full jurisdiction of the church, he foresaw the political shitstorm that will result if he favored any one of the churches and instead handed the keys to a Muslim family, and the Nuseibeh family remains keywardens to the present day.
  • Apple Inc.'s employee training program, "Apple University", reportedly compares a 78-button Google TV remote to their own 3-button Apple TV remote as an alleged example of design by committee.
  • Some legislators have invoked this trope with regards to lawmaking, saying that it's actually good when big public projects are poorly executed, because it means that many people had a say in it.
  • The bicycle shed effect, which holds that small problems get over-discussed while big problems are under-discussed, using the hypothetical example of a nuclear power plant. Your average bureaucrat is not likely to understand the problems posed by safety standards for a nuclear reactor, but can get their heads around a proposed bicycle shed for those workers who bike to work. The bicycle shed will therefore see a great deal more discussion as everyone will try to make a contribution, while the actual reactor goes ignored.

Alternative Title(s): Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth