I am looking for a word or phrase to capture the notion that too much diversity can backfire. Here's the context. In some technical fields (such as programming), there may be hundreds of possible ways to solve a particular problem. In such cases, it may be better for a community use a small set of common patterns. (In spoken and computer languages, these patterns are often called idioms.)

An example sentence is: "If we drive adoption of Standard X, we can prevent incompatibilities that would likely arise from uncoordinated solutions." The underlying logic goes like this: the benefits of standardization and coordination outweigh the "freedom" or "diversity" to express a solution in hundreds of ways.

To clarify, I'm not talking about artistic expression or freedom of speech; I'm talking about technical standards like HTML. As the argument goes, it is better to have a (more-or-less) standardized version of HTML so that tools can be built on top. (It is better to have almost everyone agree on the standard so we can all communicate using a common format.)

  • Would 'it is better to have a standardised version of HTML' not be clear enough?
    – user66974
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 20:52
  • "Consistency is a virtue" (on the other hand "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.", Emerson). Or, to borrow RoR's motto: "Convention over configuration".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 21:01
  • 2
    Obligatory xkcd reference: How Standards Proliferate
    – John Y
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 21:50
  • But TIMTOWTDI is sometimes important. :)
    – SrJoven
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 1:55

6 Answers 6


One commonly used term is fragmentation.

It is employed to describe, for example, one of the difficulties of programming for Android, because there are so many versions of the software, and so many different hardware configurations. With Android this is both a strength and a weakness, but fragmentation is the term that captures the negative side.


A common phrase with regard to too much diversification is bad is summed up in:

Too many cooks spoil the broth.

The concept here is that if too many people are working on the same project, it will spoil the result. "This cook thinks the recipe needs more garlic salt." "This cook thinks the recipe needs more kosher salt." It results in a big salty mess.

Another idiom of the same vein:

Too many chiefs

It's probably better related to the people who want to be in charge of things; for instance, those who want to establish new standards and at that, more new standards than is necessary to effectively govern.


The management terms for countering the situation are

  • effectiveness
  • stream-lined
  • focused
  • process alignment
  • non-disruptive continuous improvement
  • maintainability and sustainability

There is a very true maxim in management and engineering practice

Efficiency does not equal effectiveness

It means that, it does not matter if you find the latest and greatest methodology, and the most efficient way to implementing a project, if such implementation is not aligned with the stream-lining of the development and deployment processes but is disruptive, difficult to maintain or sustain, and hence is ineffective, and causes the whole project or even the organisation to be ineffective.

Therefore, I feel it should be looked at from the opposite angle. Rather than unnecessary diversity, we should say

not conforming to the focused streamlining necessary for effectiveness.


'Don't reinvent the wheel' seems like what you are talking about. Energy expended on developing novel solutions is wasted when adequate solutions already exist. Re-reading the question, I am sure of it.


If the competition between the two (or many) opposing forces in such a sitation is industry-shaking enough, you might have yourself a format war à la VHS vs Betamax, Blu-ray vs HD DVD or maybe even AC vs DC.

The term itself certainly connotes the perceived gravity of the competition and appropriately implies that one (or some) will ultimately die out in the battle for the competing use.


Possibly related.

Design by committee.


Best practice.

This probably encompasses the opposite to unnecessary diversity, or more to the point, best practices allow us to see through unnecessary diversity and follow a well proven and demonstrated path.


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