Can crowds be intelligent?
When we describe an individual as being intelligent, we often mean that they are book-smart, good at learning and applying knowledge that they can think clearly, are capable of understanding difficult ideas and overcoming problems. But what about collective intelligence? It has become an often used buzzword in recent years, but do we actually know what it means?
To understand this concept better we have to go back to the early 20th Century. Here, Francis Galton, a pioneer in the development of intelligence tests, illustrated the power of groups through an experiment guessing the weight of an ox. Each participant independently provided an estimate, with an average of all guesses given as the definitive answer. Galton observed that the group aggregate was a more accurate answer than any individual’s own estimation. This has come to be known as the wisdom of crowds. The fact that groups of people can be more intelligent than any one individual is illustrative of collective intelligence. Although there are many different definitions of collective intelligence, all have in common the idea of individuals acting together to combine their knowledge and insight.
Collective intelligence is not only prominent in communities but relevant in a business context, where it has been claimed to produce tangible competitive advantages. So we can look at families, companies, countries: those are all examples of groups of people working together in ways that use collective intelligence. We at Silverman Research relish engaging with challenging new ideas and innovation: the rapid growth of the internet and social media platforms has given rise to remarkable technologies that enable people to collaborate en masse. Communities and organisations can become better at what they do by leveraging social collective intelligence. To find out more about this innovation and applications, look out for our next blog.
Written by Mandy Fütterer
Malone, T. W., Laubacher, R., & Dellarocas, C. (2009). Harnessing crowds: Mapping the genome of collective intelligence.
Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies and nations little. Brown ISBN 0-316-86173-1.