Is the Wisdom of the Crowd Always Wisdom?
You may be familiar with the experiment where you ask a large group of people to (individually) guess how many colored balls there are in a jar. Almost no one will get it right. But if you take the average of all the guesses, then you come pretty close. That is the wisdom of the crowd – guessing the number of colored balls in a jar.
Do you like chocolate?
I am writing this post in a café in the village close to where I live. It’s a bakery. Five minutes ago a man came in and asked the sales person which of their cakes was the most popular. She pointed to a brown cake and said, “This chocolate cake outsells all the other cakes we offer.” The gentleman wasn’t fond of chocolate and bought another cake instead. Why did he start out by asking what other people preferred?
Most of the customers in the café section of the bakery were senior women. Maybe that explains the affection for chocolate? I don’t know, but I would guess that all the other cakes together sold more than the chocolate cake. If that is the case, then how does it help you to know which cake is the most popular? The wisdom of the crowd may not be helpful in guiding you to the cake that best matches your taste.
Picking books to read – the wisdom of the crowd?
I am releasing my next book on Friday this week. During these last weeks, I have been busy informing my network about the book and urging them to order it at the reduced pre-order price. I’ve sent out thousands of messages, and one of them came back with the following response:
“I will read the reviews to decide if it is worth reading.”
The fact is that book sales are highly dependent on the number and the kind of reviews a book gets and vice versa. People, in general, prefer to read bestsellers rather than making independent judgments. Is this the wisdom of the crowd? Are you directed to the best books by choosing from the best seller list or the books with the most reviews?
Are you a leader or a follower?
The supply of books is enormous and picking a book that is not worth reading is painful – irrespective of the relatively small price. So seeking guidance in what other people say and do seems to make sense.
Unless you are not average.
What if it is important for you to read a book before the crowd? Maybe there are ideas and inspiration in the book that you can implement before everyone else.
What about being the person of authority that is among the first to read a book and bring your review to the attention of others? What about you being the person that guides others instead of being the one guided by others?
What about being a leader instead of being a follower?