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Showing 1-10 of 120 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 301 reviews
on September 6, 2017
I thought that this book was great. Certainly kept me reading throughout. And some very useful insights into collective decision making, and how this should be best achieved.
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on March 17, 2010
Suroweiki engrossed me from the beginning. Though this book appears to be a collection of anecdotes about how crowds often outthink the experts, it struck me as a blueprint for how decision-makers should harness the power of people. Thus it is a treatise on smart business and marketing, good government, and sound organization management.

As a U.S. Army veteran, the author propelled me to thoughts on how the military could use its people's collective wisdom, something on which I have written extensively:Nine Weeks: a teacher's education in Army Basic Training

Among the most relevant claims from the book is this cogent bit of logic:

"To state the obvious, unless people know what the truth is, it's unlikely they'll make the right decisions. This means being honest about performance. It means being honest about what's not happening. It means being honest about expectations. Unfortunately, there's little evidence that this kind of sharing takes place....One of the things that gets in the way of the exchange of real information is the deep-rooted hostility on the part of bosses to opposition from subordinates. This is the real cost of a top-down approach to decision making: it confers the illusion of perfectability upon the decision makers and encourages everyone else simply to play along. What makes this especially damaging is that people in an organization already have a natural inclination to avoid conflict and potential trouble. It's remarkable, in fact, that in an autocratic organization good information ever surfaces.

It's a book that anyone who has been around people should read.
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on February 15, 2005
In "The Wisdom of Crowds" James Surowiecki explores how often a group of people can make better decisions than the "expert" and under what situations might a group make poor choices.

One of the basic points of the book is that in making a decision people have two components, information and error. Often by aggregating the decisions of many individuals the errors will cancel out and you are left with a very good decision. Another point is that for complex problems there is no "expert" who completely and thoroughly understands the problem, and can thus give the "right" answer. Most big problems are solved by making our best guesses and then seeing if our decisions were right or good enough. A group of people, because together they have more information, can make better choices.

James Surowiecki uses a variety of interesting examples to discuss how much better decisions a group can make. His first example is how Francis Galton found that an average group of people at a county faire in England back one hundred years ago were able to guess the weight of an ox within a pound, much closer than any of the "experts" were able to get. It was fascinating to learn that within hours of the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion the stock market picked which company was responsible, by a big drop in the stock price, long before there was any clear understanding of what had happened. And within a couple weeks the international health community was able work together to understand SARS, without any guiding hand or one organization in charge.

The author also explores under what conditions a group of people might make a poor decision. He found that a group of experts, who all tend to have a similar viewpoint on a particular topic, may make a worse decision than a group with a few "less smart" people who will see a problem from different view points. Another situation that happens is where there is a vague problem for which people don't see a clear answer so if someone will go public with his answer, then other people will go along with the first answer, rather than making their best guess. He calls this information cascade. It is better that everyone be encouraged to make their best guess, and then work through a process of resolving or aggregating the decisions.

The chapter on how to pick good solutions for issues raised by new technology was fascinating. The author compared the process of how the free market finds good solutions to how a beehive looks for food. One example was the early development of the automobile. In both cases scouts go out looking for solutions (honey or car designs) and bring them back to be evaluated by the group. The market reviewed hundreds of designs for cars and gave feedback on which designs were better. The basic design quickly developed. It is key to have a system which generates lots of alternatives and allows losers to be abandoned quickly. It is important to have both diversity of solutions and diversity of perspectives to generate better results.

Some books are interesting and educational, but after reading them there is little need to go back and reread them. You can learn the basic lessons in one reading. "The Wisdom of Crowds" is one of those which needs to be reread every so often because there are so many interesting ideas explained and thoughts explored. It is well written and is worth the time to read and worth thinking about after reading.
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on July 25, 2017
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on July 22, 2016
A bit dry but easy to read. Great knowledge and context in the writing. The examples are all relevant and can be put to good use.
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on June 26, 2017
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on December 27, 2005
This is truly "the concept" for the next wave of business. Any businesses not incorporating peer-based content and/or collaboration eventually will be toast. And any investor not recognizing other bubbles that came well before the 2000 tech bubble could also become toast.

Evalubase Research ([...]) is one business based on the WoC concept. Evalubase turns the traditional hands-off IT analyst model upside-down by making actual hands-on IT users the experts-in-aggregate. After years as a self-important IT analyst, I realized that the IT professionals I advised knew way more than I did. Surowiecki's book pushed me over the entrepreneurial edge. To appreciate the power of crowds: We understand that already Evalubase has more "votes" on more IT vendors and products than the number of "guru ratings" that the leading IT analyst firm publishes.

Getting people to participate, however, is the real trick to making WoC work. It either needs to be entertaining or beneficial. (E.g. Evalubase offer realtime scorecards and alerts, and limited research for participants).

Many people refer to scattered unstructured content like Blogs as WoC. But I'm not sure I'd agree, since unless you can harness a body of content's center-of-gravity, it's hard to make prognostications or make decisions based on it.

Looking forward to learning of other businesses based on the Wisdom of Crowds concept.
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on March 11, 2013
Some people think they're the smartest in the room and yet they come up with sub-optimal decisions, time and again. If you've ever wondered how this can happen or how it can be avoided, this book is for you. The Wisdom of Crowds shows how a group can be smarter than any one person in it, why this is, and how you can benefit from it in your work and life. I now work more collaboratively and strive to involve others so I can get their input and develop the best solutions. As an added bonus, people now also have more buy into the decisions and work harder to reach mutual goals.
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on February 7, 2010
Surowiecki brings to the forefront an amazing collection of anecdotes and facts that support his main thesis: crowds 'can' be wise, useful and if carefully crafted, their participation can be spectacularly beneficial.
I've never given much thought about 'diversity,' a term that to me meant a way to give away with discrimination. Surowiecky proves that diversity is one of the necessary ingredients to benefit from a crowd.

I would blankly recommend this book to everyone. To some it may mean a way to apply this knowledge, to others, an understanding of how crowds work (and when they don't) is just intellectually stimulant.

I realize this may sound like an advertisement. I have no disclaimers to make, I have no specific interest or relationship with the author, I just was blown away with the concept.

This is a book I will treasure and re-read again.
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on June 28, 2014
This wide-ranging description of studies of crowds in controlled academic settings, in markets, in communities helps us understand how to use the woks dome of crowds to better understand events, coordinate people, make decisions. If information is properly shared, and if the crowd is asked the right questions, the crowd will always be smarter than the individuals that make up the group.
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