Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki – My Thoughts – Birds on the Blog

Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki – My Thoughts

Why I Read The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

The Wisdom of Crowds James Surowiecki, wisdom of crowds book, wisdom crowds summary,crowds James Surowiecki , wisdom crowds Surowiecki , James Surowiecki wisdom crowdsI am hosting and participating in the Read the World Extreme Reading Challenge. I know you are asking yourself what does that have to do with you? Sure, I would love it if you joined my reading challenge because it can benefit you. But that’s not why I mentioned my reading challenge today. Each month, reading challenge participants have certain requirements to fill. And one month, it’s to read a book written over a century ago, then read a retelling of the book. The two books I read are Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (affiliate link) by Charles Mackay and The Wisdom of Crowds (affiliate link) by James Surowiecki. Today, I’m focusing on The Wisdom of Crowds.

Mentor Minute One

According to Mortimer Adler in his book, How to Read a Book, (affiliate link) there are three reasons for reading. You read to:

  1. Gather information.
  2. Further your knowledge on a topic.
  3. Be entertained.

But I would also like to add, that when you read a book, you should be taking notes. And you should be connecting the new information to what you already know. It’s important to find ways the book is relevant to your work and life. You can even write notes to yourself, within your note-taking, as ideas come to you. That’s what I do. Then you should review your notes, extracting the five big ideas.

I took notes while reading The Wisdom of Crowds. But my detailed notes were focused on information that I could possibly use in my business. This post is based on the notes that I took. This is not a true summary or book review of The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, because I am focusing on selective information.

Related Post: To Remember More of What You Read, Take Notes by Hand

Mentor Minute Two

Under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them. Decisions that groups make, are often better than the decisions that individual members make.

James Surowiecki: The Power and the Danger of Online Crowds

3 Types of Problems to Solve

James Surowiecki talked about three types of problems, and I thought this information was very instructive.

  1. Cognitive problems: Have definitive solutions.
  2. Coordination problem: Members of a group have to figure out how to coordinate their behavior with each other.
  3. Cooperation problem: Getting people with different agendas to work together.

Wisdom of Crowds: Basic Blogging

Whenever you’re confronted with a problem at work, decide which of the three problems it is. That will inform the way you approach a solution. However, there is a basic approach to problem solving.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Uncover possible alternatives.
  3. Decide among the alternatives.

If the problem you are facing is a coordination or a cooperation one, it’s important to have diversity in the group of people who are going to generate ideas to solve the problem. You have to have a set of criteria to distinguish between good and bad ideas. Diversity in a group helps to prevent group think. It also gives others permission to dissent in a respectful manner. With diverse group members, collective decisions are likely good ones, because diverse voices, have diverse opinions, reaching independent conclusions. They are relying on their primary information.

Wisdom of Crowds: How Ideas Spread

As a blogger and writer, I’m interested in virality. I want to know how good ideas spread. And that’s a question that many people are interested in as well. In The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, he says that imitation is a powerful tool to spread ideas. But what exactly does that mean for you and for me? James Surowiecki clarifies by talking about intelligent imitation.

Intelligent imitation helps the group by making it easier for ideas to spread. Slavish imitation hurts. Intelligent imitation needs:

  • Wide array of options and information.
  • The willingness of some people to put their own judgment ahead of the groups.

The more important the decision, the less likely a cascade will take place. It’s worth noting that coordination problems are difficult to solve. Every decision made, affects every other decision.

We live in communities where we have different conventions that we follow. Some of which are unwritten rules and norms. Conventions allow us to maintain stability and order. They allow us to deal with situations without thinking about them. The most successful norms are internalized. This information is important because they guide us in the way we solve problems.

A cooperation problem is similar to a coordination problem, but it has to adopt a broader definition of self-interest. The group members bring into the group their different agendas. Laws only work when people cooperate.

I appreciate all the information in The Wisdom of Crowds on problem solving. Complex problem solving is at the top of the list of skills you need to thrive in 2020.

Related Post: Employability Skills List: Top 10 Skills to Thrive in the Future

Another bit of information I found interesting in The Wisdom of Crowds, is Bayer’s Theorem. Before reading The Wisdom of Crowds I had never heard of Bayer’s Theorem. It was important for me, because I am making notes of theorems to see how they can apply today.

Wisdom of Crowds: Bayer’s Theorem

Bayer’s Theorem: Calculate how new information about an event changes your pre-existing expectations of how likely the event was Thinking about Bayer’s Theorem, how might you apply it in your work?

A modern day example of Bayer’s Theorem:

Most people use Google as their default search engine. The likelihood that Google finds what you’re looking for is built on the wisdom of crowds. Google asks the entire web which pages are the most useful in terms of information. The page with the most votes shows up first. The more links to a page, the more valuable the page is perceived. The final vote is a weighted average. Understanding this information is important if you are a blogger, or someone who writes online articles. We have heard that it’s important to write high quality content if you want to rank high on search engine. But understanding how Google uses the wisdom of crowds put things into perspective.

It is worth reading James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds for yourself. The book was eye opening for me because it was filled with lots of examples that made me think. I got many ideas on how to approach different aspects of the work I do.

Books Mentioned

If You’re interested in buying any of the book, simply click on the link below.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

The Wisdom of Crowds

How to Read a Book

Further Reading

‘Wisdom of the crowd’: The myths and reality (BBC)

About the Author Avil Beckford

Avil Beckford, the founder of The Invisible Mentor, is a published author, writer, ghost blogger, the host of the Strategic Reading Challenge and an expert interviewer. Sign-up for the Strategic Challenge.

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