The Wisdom of Crowds

This Wisdom of Crowds” by James Suriowiecki

How much does a crowd know? How do crowds compare with individuals? How are teams best organized?

OK, the title slightly gives away the punchline so there’ll be no big shocks here, but the characteristics and behaviours of crowds described in the book were often counter-intuitive, and always intriguing. Collectively, a crowd can produce some amazing results – the books starts with the story of a group of people at a cattle auction. Each of the ~150 people is asked to guess the weight of one particular cow after it has been slaughtered and butchered. The crowd was predominately composed of lay-people, and although answers varied wildly, the mean average guess was under 1 pound off.

There was also some discussion of teams, and I could really appreciate what was said. The Senior Leadership Team at school, of which I am a part, demonstrates one of the author’s ideas perfectly – we are a very diverse team, with people of all intelligences, interests, backgrounds and spheres of influence, and I think our success owes itself to this diversity. A team filled with like-minded yes-men is not a good one: there is little dissention and alternative thought, and action produced by the team will be very insular.

Spoilers over. Overall, this is clearly a book aimed at a general audience; and although it’s heavy on ideas but thin on evidence and maths, I still recommended it.

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