Tuesday, August 5, 2008

James Surowiecki

Very interesting keynote presentation. James presented his book "The Wisdom of Crowds" which is an item I will probably suggest for our departmental library. To sum up his topic: the collective intelligence of a group of people will outperform a majority of the time any individual within this group.

To form a group of people whose collective intelligence is sharp, there are 3 conditions which must be met:

  1. Aggregation
  2. Diversity
  3. Independence
Aggregation: The sum of information collected within the group gives you an overall average that is much better than reliance on a single individual.

Diversity: The more diverse a group is, the better it will perform. One major problem within groups is group think. Group think happens when a group always agrees on their own ideas and basically convinces itself that they are right. This is a major pitfall that can be avoided. One way to avoid group think is to play devil's advocate. Always challenging a group's idea will provoke a form of "good fight" that will yield a better consensus in the end. Peer pressure can also be a factor that will hinder a group's collective intelligence.

Independence: This is somewhat hard to come by in large organizations but this is a key factor for wisdom of crowds. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge in groups held in by individuals that need to come out for the benefit of everyone. We need to make sure that everyone remains independent. This is fundamental.

So there you have it. I'll post some more material on this keynote as and if it becomes available. I'll post another update after this morning's first conference with Mary Poppendieck

1 comment:

Steffen said...

Individualism is a good point here and imho too much ignored by XP & Co.

But I agree that it may be a tough job to support individual ideas and development in large teams and with limited money/hours, at least from my everyday experience ;)