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The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations
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The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  21,050 ratings  ·  676 reviews
“No one in this world, so far as I know, has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”  —H. L. Mencken
 
H. L. Mencken was wrong.

In this endlessly fascinating book, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, n
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Published May 25th 2004 by Random House Audio (first published 2004)
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Teresa yes, definitely worth reading. It is NOT at all about promoting sheep mentality and, in fact, reports how that kind of thinking occurs and what can be…moreyes, definitely worth reading. It is NOT at all about promoting sheep mentality and, in fact, reports how that kind of thinking occurs and what can be done to avoid it. Very thoughtful and in depth look at how group thinking works, when it works best and the ways to ensure we actually DON'T end up with sheep mentality.(less)

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3.81  · 
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 ·  21,050 ratings  ·  676 reviews


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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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Sara Alaee
“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
Kara
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Eric_W
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Christy
Sep 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ali Sattari
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I didn't expect it to be as good!
Great wrap up on various case of crowds implicitly or explicitly deciding and effective factors on their optimal performance.
Tom
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was one of those frustrating reads where you wish you'd come across the it much earlier, because it's full of good stuff, but by the time you reach it lesser imitators have picked half the flesh off the bones. I can't count how many insight porn blogposts I've read namechecking prediction markets, or Schelling points, or the ultimatum game, but I could have saved myself all the trouble by reading this book closer to the date of publication.

Luckily, the sense of familiarity of the mate
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Laura
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rob Hunter
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Jeff Yoak
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Stephen Yoder
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a slow read. Now I'm looking around myself to try and determine if the groups I'm in are comprised of enough varied people to guarantee good outcomes. Hmmmm. . . and crowdsourcing is rather different than groupthink--that can be difficult to grasp quickly.
Kevin Keating
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a while ago, but it made the case that pooling data from the guesses of random crowds is more accurate than the data from experts in many cases. Very interesting book and a pretty quick read.
Gaurab Dutta
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its not a book which will keep you engaged throughout. Rather, its kind of a book that confuses you many times, hinders and questions your understanding numerous times by providing arguments from both sides! The flow is understandably slow at times, and leaves you bewildered. Its a tough read, and I would suggest this only if one is patient enough to follow the author's lead..
Brittany
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I love me a book on decision making.

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Interesting mention from "The baiting crowd in episodes of threatened suicide" where a woman was told, "Just jump, bitch! Just do it!" when she climbed over the railing of a bridge in an obvious suicide attempt.

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https://www.jstor.org/stable/2772323?

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You do not need a consensus in order, for instance, to tap into the wisdom of a crowd, and the search for consensus encourages tepid, lowest-common-denominator solutions which offend no one rather han exciting eve
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Giedra
Jun 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating description of the counterintuitive phenomenon in which aggregating knowledge of a large number of people produces a more accurate result than one would expect. For example, if you have a large number of people predict the number of jellybeans in a jar, their average will probably be very close to accurate and is likely to be more accurate than the estimate of all but 1 or 2 individuals.

Described ways this phenomenon can be/is used to help predict things (eg, elections, sports winne
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Michael
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I ended up liking this book because I believe I learned something from it. And in truth I would recommend it to people. But a few things I didn't like came to me rather quickly.

The author makes no small number of claims in this work without providing any substantive support for them. They are made as statements of fact, but in reality they are simply the author's opinions. This is rampant early on, but tails off after a few chapters. One example: "Sometimes the messiest approach is the
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Ben Wagner
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The major flaw I found in the book is the way Surowiecki choses the evidence to support his major thesis. He does seem to pick and chose things that support his thesis, even taking certain events that would seem to go against his thesis and twist them around to support it. He even provides disclaimers before some anecdotes or pieces of evidence explaining how this could be taken differently, this seems to weaken his main argument by making me immediately think of the other ways a particular piec ...more
Matthew
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essaysjournalism
A conceptually very interesting book, well-researched and fluidly written. Some egs from behavioural finance will be familiar to anyone who read broadly in that field, but Suriowecki doesn't get to those till deep in, and the early egs are extremely broad-ranging and fascinating -- from locating lost submarines, to internal markets at corporations, gambling, the failure of intelligence agencies to foresee 9/11, bean counting, etc, etc -- is there no end to the questions we could potentially solv ...more
Ariah
Jan 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
The Wisdom of Crowds falls into the same genre as Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell's books, a fascinating collection of interesting stories, studies and anecdotes toward a general premise.
Surowiecki is a little more academic in writing style then the others above, but there is also a lot more information in this book then in some of the others.
The basic idea is that we are smart as a group then we are individually. He's not advocating "group think" (one of the negative manifestations of colle
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Dick Cheuk
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In this book, the author conducts an in depth study on the phenomenon of the wisdom of crowds. The point Surowiecki tries to make is in certain condition, decision made by a group of people can be better than the same decision made by an expert or a group of expert. This sounds contradict to our conventional wisdom that experts are better but the author puts his case convincingly.

However, the tricky part is to get the right condition, which proves, by the author, to be difficult and in many case
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Pete
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Douglas Summers-Stay
Jul 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was wondering whether an organization could somehow harness the intelligence of everyone involved to act as if it were superintelligent: more intelligent than any individual in the group. This book shows examples of limited domains where that can happen, and talks about how to structure your organization to take advantage of this effect. It would be better if he shared more than anecdotal data: he repeatedly makes a big deal of one successful location of a submarine by this method, but that co ...more
Tariq Mahmood
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
I guess the book achieves most of what it sets out to do. It managed to convince me of this dark art where a crowd of people working together, with something to loose, are able to somehow come up with the right solution again and again. But this is certainly not a foolproof discovery, as some crowds like the financial markets can get it completely wrong. That is the bit I didn't quite get from this reading. What is the difference between an effective and a failing group. One suggestion was given ...more
Steven
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book excellent (in no small part because I'm often the one voicing the unpopular or unspoken opinions). I would not say it was flawless - it relies heavily on anecdotes and studies that the author glosses. I find these flaws relatively minor for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the author is truly going against the grain and will therefore struggle to find loads of research supporting this particular thesis. However, in going against the grain, I think the author coul ...more
Ngee Poo
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book raised a very interesting point of view - that crowds would in general do a better job of deciding things, given specific sets of circumstances.

There were a few points that I felt I didn't agree with though. For instance, examples of choosing restaurants and choosing tech gadgets without influence from others, which I personally believe is not the case given that I do think some people choose to patronize certain restaurants by virtue of the fact that the queue is long and hence seen as
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kareem
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
original review posted here:
http://www.reemer.com/archives/2004/0...

This book is about how groups that are diverse, decentralized, make decisions independently, and have some method of aggregating individual decisions, will very often consistently make better decisions than any one member of the group.

The classic example is asking a group to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar--the group's average guess will consistently be better than any one group member's guess.

Surowiecki, who writes fo
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Annemieke Windt
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading The Wisdom of Crowds I sometimes wondered, how would James Surowiecki write this book now. It's clearly a book written shortly after the dotcom bubble burst in 2000. Since then we saw that bankruptcy of the bonus system, the crashing of the mortgage market and the way social media influence our view on the world.

It's an intruiging book, Surowiecki makes a clear cases why when it comes down to making decision, many know more than few. It's not about the many responding to eachother,
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Lynette
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very edifying as well as entertaining look at how our collective knowledge is more accurate than what we know as individuals. Numerous examples are provided, from guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar, to playing the stock market which, BTW, is not a good indicator of what we know - but Surowiecki tells us this and explains why. Along the way he discusses such phenomena from nature as monkeys who will trade a pebble for a cucumber slice - until they see a fellow get a grape for a pebble - a ...more
Bo
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” 43 likes
“No decision-making system is going to guarantee corporate success. The strategic decisions that corporations have to make are of mind-numbing complexity. But we know that the more power you give a single individual in the face of complexity and uncertainty, the more likely it is that bad decisions will get made.” 7 likes
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