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The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few | [James Surowiecki]

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few

In this endlessly fascinating book, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant. Groups are better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.
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Publisher's Summary

In this endlessly fascinating book, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant. Groups are better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.

This seemingly counterintuitive notion has endless and major ramifications for how businesses operate, how knowledge is advanced, how economies are (or should be) organized, and how we live our daily lives. With seemingly boundless erudition and in delightfully clear prose, Surowiecki ranges across fields as diverse as popular culture, psychology, economic behaviorism, artificial intelligence, military history, and political theory to show just how this principle operates in the real world.

Despite the sophistication of his arguments, Surowiecki presents them in a wonderfully entertaining manner. The examples he uses are all down-to-earth, surprising, and fun to ponder. Why is the line in which you're standing always the longest? Why is it that you can buy a screw anywhere in the world and it will fit a bolt bought ten-thousand miles away? Why is network television so awful? If you had to meet someone in Paris on a specific day but had no way of contacting them, when and where would you meet? Why are there traffic jams? What's the best way to win money on a game show? Why, when you walk into a convenience store at 2:00 A.M. to buy a quart of orange juice, is it there waiting for you? What do Hollywood mafia movies have to teach us about why corporations exist?

The Wisdom of Crowds is a brilliant but accessible biography of an idea, one with important lessons for how we live our lives, select our leaders, conduct our business, and think about our world.

©2004 James Surowiecki; (P)2004 Books on Tape

What the Critics Say

"Surowiecki's style is pleasantly informal, a tactical disguise for what might otherwise be rather dense material. He offers a great introduction to applied behavioral economics and game theory." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (823 )
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4.1 (155 )
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  •  
    Joel S. Woolf 06-17-10 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    37
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    "I think about this book all the time"

    It has been awhile since I have read this but it really sticks with me. It makes capitalism make sense in some ways. I should really go back and read it again. My family will have to put up with me saying "I was reading this book..."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keith Chesapeake, VA, Virgin Islands, U.S. 04-07-10
    Keith Chesapeake, VA, Virgin Islands, U.S. 04-07-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Listen and Learn!"

    This book is worth reading and applying it's concepts to complex problems in your business life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lindamarie Palo Alto, CA 02-19-10
    lindamarie Palo Alto, CA 02-19-10 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    35
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    "Makes sense"

    Entertaining explanations of why crowd observations make sense. The author has great examples and they work.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    FTR Georgia Tech 09-24-09
    FTR Georgia Tech 09-24-09 Member Since 2009

    FTR

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    24
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    "Some Insights"

    I enjoyed the book; it demonstrates that intelligence can emerge bottom up. It has some shortcomings, however. It really doesn't go at the mechanisms of *how* intelligence emerges bottom up. Also, my preference would have been to have James Surowiecki read the book (he read the foreword), and not use a voice actor (a bit monotone).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Athen, AL, USA 09-13-08
    David Athen, AL, USA 09-13-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "not saying much - or perhaps too much!"

    very talkative book, not much substance, the "theories" are reallty hard to verify/falsify because of their general character.
    More of anecdotes then proves.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ricardo Massama, Portugal 08-24-08
    Ricardo Massama, Portugal 08-24-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lengthy, and at times, boring to listen to..."

    After reading the brief information about the audio book and the positive reviews from the readers I eagerly decided to buy it.
    Unfortunately for me, the content is simply not related to my level of reading (listening).
    I only listened to halve way, of the first downloaded audio book; therefore I am not in a position to comment much; The little I listened to, it dealt with corporations, government agencies. Unfortunately I did not grasp the over all meaning or relation of the information. It was lengthy and boring to listen to.
    I decided to pass on, to listen to my other purchased audio books.
    In conclusion, I will definitely leave this audio book to listen to it again, in another more appropriate time, in the future... Maybe then, I will come to understand and appreciate its content.
    For now I will have to rate it two stars.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Chicago, IL, United States 03-21-05
    John Chicago, IL, United States 03-21-05 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "So good, I bought the hardcover book..."

    and loaned it out immediately. In fact, it is now with the third reader and I have not seen it since. Surowiecki does a great job of developing his thesis, including an excellent discussion of the lack of feedback loops for experts (or, more accurately, that experts are seldom held--or hold themselves--to account for their predictions, prognostications and recommendations. He also artfully and accurately describes the conditions for independence within the crowd and the cost of not having that independence. This is a vey useful book for consultants, managers whose responsibilities include working with groups and for association professionals. I particularly recommend that "Wisdom of Crowds" and Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" be read together as the two books really form a strong basis for decision making.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Lee Price Seattle, WA 12-16-04
    Dr. Lee Price Seattle, WA 12-16-04

    Dr. Lee Price

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Much better than expected"

    Lots of interesting human behavior info linked in ways you might never have thought about.Well read by the narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B Crozier, VA, USA 11-16-04
    B Crozier, VA, USA 11-16-04
    ratings
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    1
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    "Dr."

    First rate, provocative listening. The narrator is a pleasure to listen to. It was sad to reach the end!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Randy Alameda, CA, USA 11-08-06
    Randy Alameda, CA, USA 11-08-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    2
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    "highly recommended"

    Not only is this stuff interesting, it really works. I tested this with some of my friends in guessing various things, like the number of steps from point a to point b. Just amazing... A great lesson about the value of the crowd's wisdom vs. the traditional view of glorifying experts.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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