The Wisdom of Crowds, October 2006 Anecdote Posts, Social Software

Stan Garfield
3 min readJan 29, 2016

31-Oct-06 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Books

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

“No one in this world, so far as I know, has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” — H. L. Mencken

H. L. Mencken was wrong.

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 — 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, ant biology, 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.

Table of Contents

  1. The Wisdom of Crowds
  2. The Difference Difference Makes: Waggle Dances, the Bay of Pigs, and the Value of Diversity
  3. Monkey See, Monkey Do: Imitation, Information Cascades, and Independence
  4. Putting the Pieces Together: The CIA, Linux, and the Art of Decentralization
  5. Shall We Dance?: Coordination in a Complex World
  6. Society Does Exist: Taxes, Tipping, Television, and Trust
  7. Traffic: What We Have Here Is a Failure to Coordinate
  8. Science: Collaboration, Competition, and Reputation
  9. Committees, Juries, and Teams: The Columbia Disaster and How Small Groups Can Be Made to Work
  10. The Company: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?
  11. Markets: Beauty Contests, Bowling Alleys, and Stock Prices
  12. Democracy: Dreams of the Common Good


KM Links

October 2006 Anecdote Posts

  • The Storytelling and Complexity Conference in New Mexico
  • Social network perspective of knowledge-retention strategies
  • Facilitating a workshop of 90 futurists
  • Celerity IT is looking for a Senior Business Analyst with Business Narrative skills
  • The new science of change
  • What I believe about learning
  • Wikipedia raids are great activities for communities of practice
  • Some free eBook resources
  • The role of social networks in IT systems implementations
  • The Ultimate Guide to Anecdote Circles; Facts and stories (go together like a horse and carriage)
  • Tag lines for knowledge strategies
  • Which story-based techniques are most used?
  • The Prato Dialog
  • The people are the organization
  • For successful change — Momentum = Mass x Velocity
  • Improv and Story to help you in life and work

KM Questions

Q: Where can I find references on the use of social software in KM?

A: See the following:



Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager