The Wisdom of Crowds

I read a story once about guessing the number of jelly-beans in a jar. The jar was on the counter in a candy store, and a sign invited anyone to drop their name in a box with their guess of the total number of jelly beans in the jar. After a month, over 400 people made a guess, but no one guessed the right number. However an enterprising math student, who ate too much candy and could not sleep that night, decided to average all of the guesses to see what number the “crowd” guessed. Turns out, the crowd average was correct!

There is even a book on this topic. According to Wikipedia: “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, first published in 2004, is a book written by James Surowiecki about the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group. The book presents numerous case studies and anecdotes to illustrate its argument, and touches on several fields, primarily economics and psychology.”

So how do we harness the wisdom of the “crowd”? Well, one idea is organized communication and knowledge sharing across our industry from the translator level through to client’s end-users, and I expect this concept of “crowdsourcing” will continue to grow. I know there are great ideas at all levels of our supply chain, so get excited about sharing, and you will quickly see that together we can guess the number of jelly beans in jar and even much greater things!



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