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The Wisdom of Crowds
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The Wisdom of Crowds

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  12,552 ratings  ·  490 reviews
In this fascinating book, "New Yorker "business columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea: Large groups of people are "smarter" than an elite few, no matter how brilliant-better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.
With boundless erudition and in delightfully clear prose, Surowiecki ranges acro
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Paperback, 306 pages
Published August 16th 2005 by Anchor Books (first published 2004)
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Whitaker
I’ve read James Surowiecki in the New Yorker. I’ve generally enjoyed his articles and found them fairly informative and engaging. I think that perhaps he should stick to that: writing articles.

This book was, well, disappointing. And I suspect that it’s because I expect more from a book. I expect an analysis that is more balanced and rigorous. While I am willing to accept a little grandstanding in an article, I find it intolerable in a book. What’s ironic about all of this is that he’s written a
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TK Keanini
I enjoyed this book. I wrote a review and then read everyone else's review and decided to return to write something more to the point. Some people did not even finish the book so I'd like highlight a few important concepts Surowiecki was trying to communicate.

The four essential conditions that make up a smart or wise crowd are:
- Diversity of Opinion
Each person must have some private information that he/she brings to the group. Their own interpretation or their own understanding of the problem s
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Trevor
This book begins with a bang and ends with a bang – so I guess it is not too surprising that there is a bit of a whimper in the middle. In some ways this book covers similar ground to other books I’ve read recently, particularly Fooled by Randomness The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets. In fact, it could be that I’ve been reading far too many of this type of book recently and so they are all starting to merge into one.

The kinds of people who do tests on other people did a test in
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Mike Banino
Two heads are better than one. And a hundred heads are even better. And a thousand are almost perfect. Watch the asymptote as it approaches infinity... You are getting veeeerrrry sleeeeepy...

This is a very interesting concept, fleshed out into a very boring book. It seems like a graduate thesis that got stretched to book length for publication in hopes of drafting the popular slipstream of writers such as Malcolm Gladwell.

The premise is fascinating, and the first chapter delivers. After that it
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Zach
Feb 13, 2013 Zach rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: nf
I've been putting off reading this book for a long time. I already felt that I believed in the idea put forth by the book and figured it would be a better use of my time to read something that was likely to change my mind. Lately, I've been making an effort to read those books that I've been putting off, and in this case I'm glad I read The Wisdom of Crowds. Turns out it would change my mind after all.

I really wanted to like this book. After having some serious issues with the prologue, I breath
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Ben  Campopiano
"As he walked through the exhibition that day, Galton came across a weight-judging competition. A fat ox hade been selected and placed on display, and members of a agathering crowd were lining up to place wagers on the weight of the ox. (Or rather, they were placing wagers on what the weight of the ox would be after it had been slaughtered and dresssed.) For sixpence, you could buy a stamped and numbered ticket, where you filled in your name, your address, and your estimate. The best guesses wou ...more
Tom
Mar 09, 2008 Tom rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tom by: Muhammed Saleem
The Wisdom of Crowds takes a scientific look at the theory that given the right composition and the right problems to solve, a group can collectively be smarter than its smartest member. It sounds like it can't be true, I know, but the author is quite convincing. The book details three different types of problems crowds can help solve:

1. Cognition problems: Problems that have definitive solution, such as how many jelly beans are in this big jar?
2. Coordination problems: Problems that require mem
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Kathrynn
I've debated on how to rate this book. On one hand there were interesting ideas between the cover, but on the other hand it was very dry and boring. I agree with another reviewer who mentioned it was like reading a thesis.

The author separated the book into two parts: Part 1 and Part 2 and for the life of me I can't fathom why because it all ran together. The introduction starts off with numerous examples to the points he intends to make throughout the book that also have numerous--extensive--exa
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Kara
One of our VPs asked if I had read this and would recommend it for our company's global book club. I said no but jokingly added that I could read it tonight and let her know tomorrow. She didn't realize I was joking, so...now I'm reading it tonight.

Sometimes these things happen.

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This book does get dry at times, but it has a lot of information in it. What I particularly liked about it is that it referenced all kinds of studies. This is not a book of opinions or a representation of a speaker’s
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Al
Maybe somewhere inside this poorly written, incoherent book, there's a decent short article waiting to be written. Who knows, maybe that article has already been written, and that's why this foolishness has been perpetrated. My heart goes out to the poor fool who had to edit this thing; that's assuming it was edited, because you really can't tell by reading it. What must it have been like before the editing?
Fortunately, the basic idea isn't hard to understand, and certainly it's repeated often
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Wm
Really the best way to review this book is to just star it, right?
Eric_W
Updated 4/12/09. I was handing out this book to all my friends and colleagues at work, especially our president, who seemed to think a small coterie of sycophants was all he needed.

From an earlier review I wrote some time ago: Wisdom of Crowds is a very insightful book about how we make decisions. The author describes the dangers of homogeneity in promoting group think, something we will begin to see more of in the Bush second administration as he builds his Cabinet with "Yes" men and women. Ana
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Shelby Boyer
In reading Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, I found myself finally patting myself on the back for being what I’ve always been: average. Finally—someone championing the wisdom of the little guy. The entire book is built around the idea of a crowd knowing what’s best. From figuring out how to maneuver a crowded street to finding lost submarines and judging economics, the crowd has got it down. Surowiecki makes an easily compelling case for the crowd, and he manages to do it in an entertaining wa ...more
Glen Engel-Cox
As a card-carrying member of the liberal elite, I approached James Surowiecki's book, The Wisdom of Crowds, with more than a small amount of skepticism. If his thesis, as exposed in the subtitle, "Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations," was true, it would put all of my liberal beliefs about the importance of higher education and intelligence used by experts in the service of the greater good to a serious test. Would thi ...more
Christy
We usually think that a crowd, taken as a whole, is going to be wrong. But surprisingy, if you take everybody's individual wisdom and average it together, you'll get a better answer than you'll find from an expert. We're not talking about committees here--you don't put everybody together and have them talk it out. People have to come to their decisions independently. This works whether you're guessing the number of jelly beans in a bottle, or finding a lost submarine, or trying to guess where th ...more
Kirk Sinclair
Surowiecki's thesis is even more powerful than he realizes. His ingredients for decentralized wisdom are essentially the ingredients of the Scientific Revolution, participatory democracy and how we naturally learn from experience.

Wow! My first review for this site was sparse. I'm expanding this review for The Wisdom of Crowds as an acknowledgment during an election week of the importance of this thesis for democracy.

The ingredients for collective wisdom are: independence, decentralization, diver
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Theron
I was skeptical when I first picked this book up. In fact, I picked it up and put it down any number of times. I picked it up and red the preface and after a short grumble, I put it down. Picked up, put down. Up down. Again. Weeks pasted before I picked it up again, knowing that there must be something of value in there, somewhere. Following a quick read, I wasn’t too disappointed. However, the first half is much better than the last half.

Surowiecki starts with a mildly entertaining anecdote of
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James
If a crowd is wise, then an individual writer like the author must not be?

Much of the book is trite, some is just wrong.

He refers to the book Moneyball and how clever Oakland was using new ideas to win more games.
Like money sports is only about winning.

Their #1 goal is to make as much money as possible,
winning can help that,
but being entertaining is more important.

He admits that later in an example about Italian soccer.

In Moneyball, we're told that the way to win is to walk to first base,
a
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Laura
An interesting book that presents compelling arguments in favor of drastically overhauling the way group decision-making is commonly practiced in American schools and workplaces in order to enhance the possibility of better outcomes. Anyone who has ever worked in a group will recognize many of the dynamics he describes - from the dominance of those who speak the most (regardless of the merits of the content they contribute) to unconscious deference to those of higher status (regardless of whethe ...more
Zach
Nov 25, 2008 Zach rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People watchers
Recommended to Zach by: Alex Kralicek
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Keith Swenson
This book is not only a fascinating collection of interesting observations which is well written and easy to read, it is an important book that contains truths about the world that everyone should understand.

The central idea is clear: people in a group, if polled in the right way, almost always show more intelligence, and make better decisions, than individuals. Especially if the crowd show no particular aptitude in the subject being polled, the crowd can out perform individual experts almost ev
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Koen
This is one of those books that actually manage to make people dumber.

Proposing a woozy hypothesis like ‘wisdom of crowds’ for something that is done away with taking into account simple statistics like regression to the mean. Larger numbers of semi-random guesses mean less influence by the extreme guesses. That and a rather dodgy and obvious selectiveness in choosing long spun anecdotes. Once your realize this, the book becomes a progressively more frustrating read.

Much like Malcolm Gladwell th
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Bo
An enjoyable read. The authors argue that decisions aggregated from a group are often more accurate than those made by any one individual. A critical component for this "wisdom of crowds" come from the need to have diversity, independence, decentralization (i.e. a bottom-up versus a top-down approach to management, which can foster diversity and facilitates coordination), and aggregation. This enables orthogonal decision making, allowing for additivity from diverse sources of information while c ...more
Arjen
you buy these books because they are just 6 euro or so and their titles frequent the cloud of buzzwords. That's the only reason.

Again a Wired article of over 200 pages. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Wired and its' articles but mainly because they keep their articles well under the 200 page range.

This one isn't that bad though.
Adam
A brilliant, thought-provoking survey of the many ways in which a kind of group intelligence emerges, leading to smarter groups, economics, even democracy. Well worth reading, if only to get past the cliche of "wisdom of crowds" to understand the circumstances under which this works, and those under which it goes terribly wrong.
Bookaholic
În ciuda tendinţei de a judeca grupurile mari de oameni ca acţionând iraţional şi poate chiar prostesc, cartea lui James Surowiecki, editorialist la The New Yorker, arată că, de fapt, în multe condiţii, grupul este mai inteligent decât cea mai deşteaptă persoană din cadrul său. Teza cărţii sale este să încercăm să nu mai căutăm „expertul”, soluţie care se dovedeşte destul de costisitoare şi, în unele cazuri, chiar fatală, ci să întrebăm mulţimea.

De-a lungul timpului, s-au vehiculat numeroase teo
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Hadrian
Should have known better with a comparison to Malcolm Gladwell on the front.

A mildly interesting idea with some neat examples, some misquotes and distortions, and nothing much aside from anecdotal evidence. This would have worked out much better as an article rather than a book.
Adriaan Jansen
James Surowiecki argues that there are 3 types of problems for which crowds, under the right circumstances, may be able to offer better solutions than individuals, even experts: Cognition-, coordination- and cooperation problems.

A famous example of a cognition problem is the visit of a statistical scientist to a country fair, about a century ago. At that fair, there happened to be a contest, a competition where people could guess the weight of a particular ox. 800 people participated by buying a
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Jeff Yoak
This was a five star effort for the first third of the book when the focus was primary on harvesting group intelligence and less engaging later focusing on cooperation and coordination, but overall, I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.
Gary
The book is highly listenable but suffers greatly from events which have transpired in the years since its original publication (2005 vs. today 2013). The financial crisis and stock market crash really do poke holes in a lot of his narrative on how groups out perform individuals.

I would not recommend using a credit today for this book because it is outdated by recent events and we have evolved technologically since those days. I do like the authors main theme that groups out perform individuals
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“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” 28 likes
“If small groups are included in the decision-making process, then they should be allowed to make decisions. If an organization sets up teams and then uses them for purely advisory purposes, it loses the true advantage that a team has: namely, collective wisdom.” 4 likes
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