The Wisdom of Crowds Book Summary - The Wisdom of Crowds Book explained in key points
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The Wisdom of Crowds summary

James Surowiecki

Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few

4.5 (83 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki explores how a diverse group of individuals can collectively make better decisions than even the smartest individual among them. It challenges our beliefs about the value of individual expertise over group intelligence.

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    The Wisdom of Crowds
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    Big groups can solve problems better than individuals.

    At a livestock fair in 1906, scientist Francis Galton observed visitors taking part in a contest to guess an ox’s weight in pounds. The results were surprising: although no individual, including cattle experts, could guess the ox’s exact weight, the mean value of all the visitors’ estimations was a mere pound more than the animal’s actual weight. In other words, the collective estimation was far more accurate than any individual one.

    Galton had discovered how a group of people was, indeed, wiser than each of its individual members (including experts).

    The television show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is another example of this phenomenon. Candidates on the show have to answer round after round of multiple-choice questions to win the prize and, in the process, can turn to "lifelines" for help. They can use the Ask-the-Expert lifeline to call up an expert for advice, or the Ask-the-Audience lifeline to find out the audience’s opinion. One analysis showed that only 65 percent of the experts were right, while 91 percent of the crowd’s votes were right.

    However, a quick glance at history could confirm that not all groups are wise: we witness raging crowds, violent mobs and mindless herd behavior all too often. As Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.”

    Of course, there are also errors in collective intelligence that can lead a group to make faulty decisions. But if the group manages to stay diverse, work as a team and foster open dialogues, the “wisdom of crowds” is not a meaningless cliché, but actually – as the examples above have shown – the surprising truth.

    Big groups can solve problems better than individuals.

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    What is The Wisdom of Crowds about?

    The Wisdom of Crowds explores why, and under which circumstances, groups of people can come up with better solutions to problems than any one person – even if that person is an expert. By analyzing the way individuals and groups make decisions, the book gets to the bottom of the wisdom of crowds, and shows how this wisdom can be used to make reliable decisions.

    The Wisdom of Crowds Review

    The Wisdom of Crowds (2004) explores how the collective intelligence of a diverse group often outperforms that of an individual expert. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through compelling examples, it highlights the power of collective decision-making and provides insights into how to harness this wisdom in our own lives.
    • By challenging the notion of expertise, it presents a fresh perspective on how diversity and independence of opinions can lead to better outcomes.
    • With its engaging storytelling and thought-provoking ideas, it offers a captivating read that will leave you questioning conventional wisdom.

    Who should read The Wisdom of Crowds?

    • Anyone who wants to know why a group of people can be wiser than individual experts
    • Anyone who wants to know which circumstances make groups’ decisions even more effective
    • Anyone who wants to know why working in groups makes sense in many situations

    About the Author

    James Surowiecki is an American journalist. He writes a column on financial matters for The New Yorker, and has published articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

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    The Wisdom of Crowds FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Wisdom of Crowds?

    The main message of The Wisdom of Crowds is that diverse groups of individuals can make better decisions collectively than any one individual can.

    How long does it take to read The Wisdom of Crowds?

    The reading time for The Wisdom of Crowds varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Wisdom of Crowds a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Wisdom of Crowds is a fascinating read that explores the power of collective intelligence. It provides valuable insights into decision-making processes and is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of The Wisdom of Crowds?

    The author of The Wisdom of Crowds is James Surowiecki.

    What to read after The Wisdom of Crowds?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Wisdom of Crowds, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Radical Collaboration by James W. Tamm and Ronald J. Luyet
    • Collaborative Intelligence by Dawna Markova
    • Team Genius by Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone
    • Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
    • Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
    • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
    • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday