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The Wisdom of Crowds

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  16,983 Ratings  ·  568 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 across f
Paperback, 306 pages
Published August 16th 2005 by Anchor (first published 2004)
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Apr 19, 2011 Whitaker rated it did not like it
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
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
Nov 08, 2009 Trevor rated it really liked it
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
Sara Alaee
Jan 29, 2016 Sara Alaee rated it really liked it
“The Wisdom of Crowds is not an argument against experts, but against our excessive faith in the single individual decision maker. I think there are two big problems with relying on a single individual—no matter how well-informed. The first is that true experts—that is, the real titans—are surprisingly hard to identify…The second, and more important, problem is that even brilliant experts have biases and blind spots, and so they make mistakes. And what's troubling is that, in general, they don't ...more
Mike Banino
Dec 20, 2007 Mike Banino rated it it was ok
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
Jan 05, 2016 Zach rated it it was ok
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
Ben  Campopiano
Aug 11, 2008 Ben Campopiano rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"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
Jul 18, 2014 Kara rated it really liked it
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, I'm reading it tonight.

Sometimes these things happen.


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
Aug 11, 2015 Simina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-ficțiune
Există specia asta de gânditori care vor să dea o aură științifică teoriilor lor și, pentru asta, le susțin cu studii și experimente făcute de alții (în alte scopuri).
Teoria aici e că anumite mulțimi, care întrunesc condițiile de diversitate (oamenii gândesc diferit, au formări diferite și un nivel diferit de cunoștințe), independență (nu sunt influențați) și descentralizare (nu au unii mai multă putere decât alții), pot rezolva cel puțin la fel de bine ca unii dintre experții din aceste mulțimi
Mar 09, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 06, 2008 Kathrynn rated it liked it
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
Sep 10, 2008 Al rated it did not like it
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
Jan 10, 2009 Wm rated it liked it
Really the best way to review this book is to just star it, right?
Oct 13, 2013 Eric_W rated it really liked it
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
Shelby Boyer
Sep 05, 2012 Shelby Boyer rated it really liked it
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
Oct 01, 2008 Christy rated it really liked it
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
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.
Kirk Sinclair
Oct 25, 2010 Kirk Sinclair rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 15, 2011 James rated it did not like it
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,
Atila Iamarino
Aug 20, 2015 Atila Iamarino rated it really liked it
Achei que fosse tratar só do lado bom do assunto, como grupos são mais informados. Felizmente, estava enganado. Um livro bem completo, trata de como os grupos se formam, como se manifestam e explica muito bem como isso pode dar errado. Como grupos podem se polarizar ou errar, como não se formam, etc. Ainda mais impressionante é ele ter sido escrito em 2004.
Jul 13, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
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
Nov 25, 2008 Zach rated it it was amazing
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.
Rob Hunter
Oct 13, 2015 Rob Hunter rated it really liked it
The ideas in this book helped set a direction of thought that affected the software industry (particularly the Silicon Valley scene, which had outsized impacts on the rest of the world). Reading it through now reminds me how much is lost in lip service – it's clear that so many "crowd-sourced" and "social" solutions took the title as if it were the whole story. They missed the critical conditions that allow a crowd to be wiser than the individuals within it.

(aka, no, the Central Limit theorem do
Barry Davis
Feb 16, 2016 Barry Davis rated it liked it
Subtitled, “Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, societies and nations.” He starts out by quoting a great curmudgeon, H. L. Mencken: “No one in this world, so far as I know, has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of great masses of the plain people,” then proceeds to prove him wrong. Replete with examples of how the aggregate wisdom of a group is greater than the smartest member, his first story is of a 1906 Exhibition where British sc ...more
Feb 11, 2016 JDK1962 added it
Shelves: abandoned
Just could not get through this. His argument is obviously for alleged wisdom of crowds, but IMHO, he doesn't make a coherent or compelling argument for it because for every positive example he gives, it seems like there's a counter-argument where it doesn't work (e.g., if crowd members are not independent, or decentralized, or whatever). I flipped to the back to see if he ever tried to sum up when crowds should be trusted, but the last chapter is on democracy...and if there's a domain where the ...more
Eugene Kernes
Sep 12, 2015 Eugene Kernes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: decision-making
The book presents conditions that can make a crowd wiser than the sum of its part. The three requirements are diversity, independence, and decentralized system with an aggregation center. This books utilizes tools from economics, game theory, sociology, and politics which creates a very powerful explanation of how the Wisdom of Crowds can be applied. The major benefit of the book is the fact that the author does not just focus on one particular side of the Wisdom of Crowds as the Author explains ...more
Krishna Kumar
May 05, 2015 Krishna Kumar rated it really liked it
James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds” is about a simple concept: The collective judgment of many people in the right circumstances can be consistently better than even the experts in the crowd. This is a surprising insight because we think of crowds as “mobs”, unthinking, unruly and prone to emotions. But mob behavior is only one instance of many people interacting together. There are many other environments and examples all around us where individuals acting at the same time make good and a ...more
Keith Swenson
Sep 19, 2014 Keith Swenson rated it it was amazing
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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A staff writer at The New Yorker since 2000, and writes The Financial Page. He came to The New Yorker from Slate, where he wrote the Moneybox column. He has also been a contributing editor at Fortune and a staff writer at Talk. Previously, he was the business columnist for New York. He has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, Wired, the Times Magazine, the Washington Post, and Lingua Franca, an ...more
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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.” 35 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.” 6 likes
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