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The Wisdom of Crowds

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  22,521 ratings  ·  752 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 May 19th 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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Apr 14, 2011 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
Jan 25, 2009 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
Mike Banino
Dec 20, 2007 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
Sara Alaee
Nov 25, 2014 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
Ben  Campopiano
Jul 30, 2008 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
Sep 10, 2008 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
Aug 02, 2007 rated it liked it
Really the best way to review this book is to just star it, right?
Feb 19, 2013 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
Feb 20, 2008 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
Ben Batchelder
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Bill Buckley famously quipped that he would rather be lead by “the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than the faculty of Harvard,” a populist observation which still brings a smile to our faces. This book, which I’ve wished to read for some time, finally explains the wisdom of Buckley’s insight. It also answers a nagging question – for me at least – on why so many otherwise intelligent politicians, especially on the left, say and do such stupid things.

The simple answer is
Jan 27, 2009 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
May 15, 2011 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,
Nov 13, 2008 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
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
Shelby Boyer
Sep 05, 2012 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
In his book, James Surowiecki tackles an ambitious question : how good are assemblies of people at making judgments? More precisely, are they better or worse than one smart person? His answer actually goes against the common thesis introduced by Gustave LeBon in his Psychologie des foules according to which crowds are supposed to be significantly dumber than the individuals who make it up. Surowiecki sets up to show not only that often the opposite is true, but also under which conditions this w ...more
Sep 27, 2008 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
Jonathan Maas
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book, hope for full review later. Somewhere between Jon Ronson and his big themes, and Malcolm Gladwell and his precious little truths. Regardless, it's up there with Ronson and Gladwell. ...more
Ali Sattari
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, must-reads
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.
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Joseph L.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Watch a detailed review along with my favorite ideas and takeaways at:
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
Kirk Sinclair
Sep 15, 2010 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
Iman Shabani
Not worth much of your time, maybe only a 15min summary?
May 05, 2011 rated it liked it
I’m trying to remember the first time I heard the phrase: “Group Think”. It might have been when a teacher pointed out a logical fallacy during a group presentation, or from a judge in a debate tournament, but I definitely remember hearing the phrase in reaction to the second gulf war and all the accusations and recriminations associated with it. Like many people, I heard that phrase and wondered: “is that the polite way of saying: ‘we all screwed up?’”

Though he writes as part of the aftermath
Ravi Warrier
I started reading this book with an inherent bias. Of course, I agree with Agent Kay in Men In Black when he said, "A person is smart, people are dumb!" and that's kind of intuitive for anyone with two eyes and a brain to observe the world. And so, I was convinced I wouldn't like what 'this guy' (the author) had to say... But I changed my mind. Only because mentally I changed the title of the book.

If you change the title of the book to "How to make crowds wiser", then everything that Surowiecki
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
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
Dec 07, 2012 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 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People watchers
Recommended to Zach by: Alex Kralicek
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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.” 51 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.” 8 likes
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