Wisdom of Crowds Is The Opposite of Innovation

I was watching a presentation called “Is it me, or is everything $#!t?”. I recommend watching it for yourselves, but here’s a taste.

Consider the wisdom of crowds. If we can check out a reality TV show, and ask the crowds what they think about  ideas on it, we’d get a normal distribution, sort of. We’ll get a mean and a variation and basically we’ve got the most popular ideas. The crowd has spoken.

But how good is that idea? It’s the mean, plain vanilla, right? So what happens when you’re looking for better ideas?

Usually we’re not looking for the best solutions in reality TV (we can learn a lot on system thinking from watching them, but that’s for another post). However, we’re always looking for better ideas, answers, solutions. In our professional life, we’re looking for the best possible ideas.

It seems the wisdom of crowds does not go along with real-life solution finding. Like Nolan says, it can help you to weigh a cow, but for more complex stuff, it’s not that helpful.

So where do good ideas come from?

They don’t come from the middle. They come from the outliers, where innovation starts. Outside the box. Good answers and ideas are the exception, not the norm.

The problem, of course, is that if you have outrageous ideas, you first need to try them, then need time to prove they were helpful (or not). So many of them are either killed before we can try them, and we don’t allow time for them to bloom.

Here’s my takeaway: For successful living, we need to experiment. To learn what works and what doesn’t. And experiment more with less-common-sense ideas. After all, for common ideas, we’ll get (maybe) common results.

For that we need a fail-safe environment. Some of the experiments fail, and we need to make sure it’s safe to fail. Or else, we won’t have new ideas, no innovation.

Just common sense.

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