You may have heard that the wisdom of the crowd is smarter than its smartest member, and it is true under certain conditions.
The idea that a group’s judgment can beat the experts is generally traced back to an observation by Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton at a 1907 English livestock fair. Galton pointed out that the average of all the 800 entries in a ‘guess the weight of the ox’ competition at a country fair was amazingly accurate – to within a pound of the actual weight, beating the best of the individual guess which was another 100 pounds off the mark. The crowd’s estimate also beat the experts at the fair.
The idea that the group’s judgment can be better than the experts was most popularly argued in James Surowiecki’s 2005 book The Wisdom of Crowds. His TED talk at the time explains the concept well, here is the link:
But the crowd needs to be well formed – for example you need to have diverse opinions and backgrounds. Interestingly the more diverse the crowd the more accurate the result is. And you need to find a ways of ‘sweeping in’ the diversity and ‘making sense’ of the input so you can make better decisions.
The crowd in your organization will mean a bigger group than you can typically ask – customers, potential customers, stakeholders, cross functional units – the broader the reach of your crowd the better informed your decisions will be. It’s perfect for dealing with new challenges, innovating, and developing a fresh approach to an existing problem