A Better Workplace

The Wisdom of Crowds and Social Media

In one of my MBA classes, seminar in marketing issues, the topic was about biases and how we are often in error, and Professor James Sundali talked about The Wisdom of Crowds and gave us a few examples that I want to share with you.

First, let’s see what The Wisdom of Crowds is.

Jim Surowiecki begins his book The Wisdom of Crowds with a story from 1906. An unfortunate cow laid down its life for a place in mathematical history. The cow was the subject of a guess-the-weight competition and the lucky person who came closest would win the slaughtered animal’s meat.  The amazing part was that nobody guessed correctly, and yet everybody got it right.

At this competition, 787 people guessed the weight of a steer. Their average guess was 1,197 pounds. The actual weight of the steer is 1,198 pounds.

Amazing, right? It shows that crowds can make more accurate predictions most of the time.

In his TED talk, Lior Zoref recreates this experience by bringing an ox to the talk and asking his audience to use their smartphones to guess the animal’s weight and submit their weight estimations.

At the end of his talk, he got over 500 estimations, the lowest was 308 pounds the highest was more than 8,000 pounds. The average was 1792 pounds, and the actual weight of the ox was 1795 pounds. This is crowd wisdom in real-time.

In another case, Marcus du Sautoy, a British mathematician and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, used a jar of 4510 jellybeans and asked 160 individuals to guess how many jellybeans were in the container. Watch his video here.

He collected the guesses that were all over the place ranging from 400 right up to 50,000. Someone even guessed that the jar contains half a bean. However, when he summed all of the guesses and calculated the average, the average guess was 4,515. Identical to the actual number of 4510.  

As a result, when we take the guesses collectively, they become something else entirely.

What tends to happen is that more or less as many people will underestimate the number of jellybeans as overestimated a few people will be way off the mark either way but that doesn’t matter. If you poll enough people, the errors should cancel each other out.

The accuracy of the group is far greater than the individual and this is called the wisdom of the crowd.

It reminds me of the phrase that “two heads are better than one.”

Success does not have to be something you achieve on your own. Crowdsourcing allows you to enlist the help of many others.

Crowdsourcing is used by people from different sectors to find new ideas, data, and inspiration for projects. Businesspeople, artists, scientists, engineers, and others are all included.

We often hear that organizations use crowdsourcing. a few examples of companies that have been using various forms of crowdsourcing for the betterment of their business.

  • LEGO established the LEGO Ideas platform, where users can submit their ideas for new LEGO sets.
  • PepsiCo occasionally solicits input from consumers on varying products, such as the time they asked customers to share their favorite new potato chip flavor for the company’s Lay’s brand.
  • Amazon Studios has made a large place for itself in the world of TV and film production.

But, if this works so effectively for organizations, why can’t we live our life using crowd wisdom.

Kal Busman is a great example of using personal crowdsourcing.  He’s the lead pastor at Kings Cross Church in Tennessee. He’s using crowd wisdom to create his Sunday Sermons one week before his speech. he goes to his Facebook page and asks his friend what I should talk about.

This is how he creates the topic for next Sunday. Then during prayer, people use their smartphones to share their collective understanding in real-time. He told that ever since he started to do so church is full every Sunday.

In today’s digital age, our ability to communicate with many minds on a broad scale has made it easier to turn to large groups of people for their innovative new ideas. We can use social media for much more than just sharing pictures.

We all need to have a positive and healthy digital relationship with our audience. This is a new skill, as Lior Zoref says, and if we only ask questions, no one will want to answer. We need to add value, listen, be responsive, and let people know that we appreciate their opinions, just like we would in real life.

 and once you’re on board with crowdsourcing, the sky’s the limit.

Let me know what you think about Crowdsourcing in the comment section below. Thanks!

4 replies on “The Wisdom of Crowds and Social Media”

This is such a cool concept! I was shown the jelly bean video in my class and thought it was super informative. I love that you are taking information from your classes to share with others on your blog. This is a great application of knowledge!

Liked by 1 person

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