Thursday, August 19, 2004

Group decision making and the wisdom of crowds

Ross Mayfield's latest post provides lots of great linkage on the subject. In short, groups make better decisions than even the best individuals. I particularly liked this bit from "Perplexing Problem? Borrow Some Brains":
The recommendation here isn’t to employ vote taking or nose counting when making hard business determinations. In fact, the recommendation here isn’t for joint decisions at all in such instances. The final decision is properly the leader’s alone to make. That’s one thing leaders are paid for, typically because they’ve given evidence of being able to make such choices better than the people who haven’t achieved leader status.

However, the key to decision-making success is for the leader to avoid engaging alone in the processes that lead up to the final verdict. It is these predecisional processes that, when jointly undertaken, will benefit the sole decision maker so richly.

Ross also links to an in-depth review of The Wisdom of Crowds, which addresses, among other things, the issue of groupthink:
The book describes at length the phenomenon of groupthink and how it biases groups' decisions and gives collective wisdom a bad name. In fact there are four phenomena at work: The tendency of groups to excessively rationalize away minority views as improbable, the shyness of individuals to voice the first opposing view in the face of an apparent consensus, the tendency to accept consensus of a small number as inherent 'proof' of that consensus' validity, and the bandwagon tendency of groups to be infected by what Gladwell in The Tipping Point called an 'epidemic'. These are all subtly different phenomena, and they're natural behaviours, but they're irrational, and have led to great skepticism about collective wisdom.
Guy had pointed me to this book earlier. Now I am compelled to add it to my already deep reading list and to acknowledge that, as usual, Guy was spot-on in his recommendation.


Blogger Guy said...

You are too kind, Eric.

Hey, think about the implications for Intellectual Property challenges, in the context of Surowiecki's thesis!? Hmm ...

7:07 AM  

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