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The Power of Wise Crowds

In the world of decision-making, one concept stands out: the wisdom of crowds. At Wizer, we believe that a wise crowd collectively knows more than the wisest person within it. But what's the secret to harnessing this wisdom, and how does it differ from traditional methods like committees, surveys, and polls?

AUTHOR: Kylee Ingram


In the world of decision-making, one concept stands out: the wisdom of crowds. At Wizer, we believe that a wise crowd collectively knows more than the wisest person within it. But what's the secret to harnessing this wisdom, and how does it differ from traditional methods like committees, surveys, and polls?

How Wisdom Emerges

Wisdom isn't conjured magically; it's the product of shared knowledge. It arises when individuals contribute their insights, bit by bit, creating an aggregate of information. Think of it as a puzzle where everyone holds a piece. Caltech economist Charlie Plott likens it to fishing: imagine being on a boat, searching for fish. Instead of peering into the water, look up, and you might spot several birds circling and diving. Each bird has a fragment of the answer, and together, they form a guiding signpost—much like an "information aggregation mechanism." At Wizer, our platform efficiently brings these puzzle pieces together, facilitating wisdom to emerge.

Fostering Innovation with Trusted Decisions

Competition for resources is inherent in many organisations, but confidence in the fairness of the process is key. Doubt can arise when decision-makers are veiled or processes are opaque. At Wizer, we emphasise trust at every stage. Our decision processes are transparent, and voting is 'reputational,' linking the voter's identity to their vote. This builds confidence and encourages:

  • Participants to contribute their best ideas.

  • Decision-makers to take ownership.

  • Wider community buy-in.

Innovative solutions often arise from a trusted decision process, enabling the risk-taking and buy-in crucial to real innovation.

A Wise Crowd vs. Committees

Committees and wise crowds value expertise but differ significantly in other aspects. While committees prioritise collegiality and selection processes, wise crowds focus on diversity and independence. Expertise in a wise crowd is multidimensional, with overlapping knowledge. Collegiality, on the other hand, is not a requirement, as diversity and independent perspectives are essential. The selection process ensures independence, avoiding groupthink.

In a wise crowd, diversity of opinion, independence, decentralisation, and aggregation are key factors. So, which is better depends on your goal. Choose a committee if you want answers that please the question poser, and opt for a wise crowd if you seek informed, balanced answers more likely to be correct.

Beyond Polls and Surveys: The Wisdom of Crowds

Polls and surveys are widely used for decision-making, but they come with limitations such as cost, populism, and atomism. Wise crowd methods offer an attractive alternative:

  • They are cost-effective and less burdensome.

  • They prioritize the right answer over popularity.

  • They can be social-focused, capturing community preferences.

Wise crowds, composed of as few as 6-7 individuals, excel in aggregating information and providing accurate answers, regardless of popularity or representation. When you need the best answers for a group, community, or population, wise crowd processes offer a distinct advantage over polls and surveys.

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