Harvesting The Group Mind

One of the challenges as we rush head long into vanishing time as we know it, is that we are confronted with the breakdown of one our most cherished concepts, that one individual can know it all, and take care of things.  Perhaps it is comforting simply to be able to point a finger at one authority figure and say, “aha, this person knows best. Historically this seems to be the case. Mankind has felt comfortable with leaders, those who seemed wise beyond all others, to run the show. Our religious models have endorsed this idea with the concept that divinity resides in an identifiable source. Powerful leaders have arisen and people have willingly surrendered to them in exchange for the promise that they would make things better.

And now more so than ever before we expect the president, or the CEO, or the General to fix “it” whatever “it” is. The paradox is that whether it is government, religion, or business, the complexity of the world is simply asking too much.

James Surowiecki in a video presentation under the label POWER:2012 discusses in a short speech that the likelihood of any one person now having the answers to these complex questions does not square with reality. Authority figures are as likely to be wrong as right. The top down idea of a one or even a few having all the answers is coming up short.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/video/conference/2007/surowiecki

This has become exceptionally frustrating. When those you had confidence in, don’t seem to be getting it right which way do you turn?

In his book, Wisdom of The Crowds, Surowiecki documents the point that while individuals of expertise can be way off the target, the average of the collective can be dead on. He cites, for example,while how those individuals buying a lottery ticket  at a county fair and  trying to guess the dressed out  weight of a slaughtered steer were wrong , the average guess of the group was within a pound or so of being exactly right. His book cites the many applications of this revelation.

What is most useful from his observation is that the inclusive atmosphere makes everyone count in order to obtain a more useful average for solving a particular problem.

While his examples tend to show how the collective’s average can provide the answer to a problem created in the past, his analysis supports the idea that groups of individuals maintaining their own independence, but working in harmony will be much more effective in a future  world robbed of time than perhaps the “anointed one.”  Leadership will evolve to figuring out how to best harvest this group mind.

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