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The Wisdom Of Crowds

Author: James Surowiecki
Year: 2004
Pages: 284
Rating: 77/100
Amazon: The Wisdom Of Crowds

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki valiantly tries to prove the idea that large groups of people are smarter than a few individuals. The book follows the popular trend of pop/social science books (Blink, Freakanomics, etc.) in trying to overturn popular assumptions with witty insight. His case studies are easy to understand and include the TV show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, congested traffic in urban centers, wall street markets and open-source programming.

Surowiecki's thesis gets a bit blurry throughout the book and isn't as powerful and thought-provoking as The Long Tail. The main point is somewhat confusing because, in the context of the book, crowds consist of the aggregate of independently-deciding individuals - not groups of people making decisions together. The example I created for myself to keep the framework intact is that of a trial jury. The book is not defending the "wisdom" of a jury in its current form. If a jury's decision consisted of members each casting their vote without any collaboration (and therefore persuasion) from each other than, by Surowiecki logic, the verdict will be incredible accurate (nevermind that it would result in a lot of hung juries - and probably why it doesn't work that way)

Litty's Take

I was a bit disappointed with the book. I was looking for something as juicy and mind-bending as The Long Tail or Freakanomics but I thought this fell short. I struggled to follow along with each section of the book and was constantly trying to figure out how each example fit into the greater idea. This probably would be a great magazine article, but not sure it needs to be a book.

I'm writing this review a few weeks after I finished reading the book and there are very few takeaways that are still in my head. I haven't really incorporated this ideas into my thinking and don't see how I'm going to apply it in real-life situations. I guess the one idea it did enforce is that nobody is always right - and the more opinions, perspectives and ideas you can gather the more ground and scenarios you will cover.

Anyway, if you're still interested in the book I'll be happy giving you my copy.


hey litty, I read this book last year and I agree thats its totally sub-par. The whole idea that a crowd of experts is smarter then one single of experts is kind of silly bc who define anyone else as an expert. I also thought the book was incredibly redundant. Still better then good to great which I read around the same time. If you have a chance read the Mckinsey Quarterly article on the Halo effect....really good...basically says all these books, ceos, and business writers are dummies.

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