James Surowiecki: The power and danger of online crowds


James Surowiecki is the author of the famous book ‘The Wisdom of the Crowds’. One of the main takeaways from The Wisdom of the Crowds for me personally was that crowds need to be independent: otherwise a thing called ‘Groupthink’ can easily occur. Aggregated information influences the crowd to make other decisions, influencing the information. 

During a TED talk a few years back, he discussed blogs in particular. He answers three questions, what motivates people to blog, why estimations by groups are better (for those of you that have not read the book) and what the potential problems with blogs are. You can view the talk here if you are interested: http://www.ted.com/talks/james_surowiecki_on_the_turning_point_for_social_media.html

The last question triggered me the most. Surowiecki stresses once more that networks shape the views of the participants: therefore independance is key. However, we get linked to our network more and more through facebook and other social media. From company perspective, that would like to get the most out of their employees, how would this work? Should we just hire people who are not linked at all and let them work independent on the same assignment to get the best results? 

One response to “James Surowiecki: The power and danger of online crowds”

  1. chrischwaberlin says :

    The success of corporate projects would rather suffer the more people work independently from each other. But – as I understand Surowiecki’s book – when it comes to predictions it is beneficial to take into account the evaluation of people looking at the issue from different perspectives and not influenced by each other. In a study I have applied this principle to Rating prediction.

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