June 3, 2004
News & Opinion: Guest Appearance
Greetings from Brooklyn. Todd's been nice enough to ask me to guest-blog and to talk about (or flog) my new book, The Wisdom of Crowds. (You can read an excerpt from it here.) As the title suggests, the book's central argument is that under the right circumstances, groups can be remarkably intelligent, and in fact are often smarter than the smartest people within them. (I use the words "crowds" and "groups" in a broad sense, referring to everything from markets to horseracing bettors to game-show audiences and even the Internet.) The simplest example of this is that if you ask a group of people to guess how many jellybeans are in a jar, the group's average guess will invariably be within about 2% of the right number, and it will be better than the guesses of just about everyone in the group. Jellybean-counting is not, of course, a trick for which there is much demand. But collective wisdom can be (and is being) used to solve far more complex problems, including coming up with intelligent forecasts of the future. During the rest of my time here, I'll try to offer up some examples of the wisdom of crowds at work, lay out the conditions that are necessary for it to function to well, and talk some about the practical consequences of the idea. I think figuring out how to tap into the collective intelligence of their organizations is one of the major challenges companies face in the years ahead, but I also believe that the potential rewards are immense. I'm anxious to hear from the crowd of readers, as it were, so please post away.