I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this session at DC’s Ad Week. The title was “The Buzz in Business & Why It’s Not Hype.” Well, that title turned out to be mumbo-jumbo. What James Surowiecki (I will refer to him as James so I don’t slaughter his name repeatedly) spoke about was the wisdom of crowds. Coincidentally, he’s written a book on that topic.
Generally we don’t like to follow the crowd just because, but as market researchers, the wisdom of the masses is interesting to us.
So – James brought out some interesting examples. For instance, odds on horses at race tracks. Wikipedia. Google‘s page rank algorithm. The Threadless t-shirt company. The Hollywood Stock Exchange. All of these are success stories that hinge on the wisdom of groups.
James even threw out some interesting factoids, in case you’re ever on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The majority of the audience is right on 91% of the questions they’re asked to cast an opinion on. The experts, which contestants select ahead of time by topic area, are only correct 2/3 of the time. Just so ya know.
Of course there is a key to the success of mob rule. James provided some pointers.
- Be sure you’re aggregating lots of DIFFERENT opinions. You’re not looking for one or two genius ideas, you’re looking for a collective user response.
- Ideally, you want the group to be diverse, that is, thinking about the world in different ways, coming at problems from different angles.
- People need space to think for themselves. If you have an in-person group, watch out for high status people and talkative folks.
James’s book: The Wisdom of Crowds