The fallacy of the “wisdom of the crowd” ensures that good ideas too often get buried in the collective.
Independent thinking among the crowd can break through the echo chamber by challenging bad ideas and spurring creative and critical thinking. The question is, how do we merge and leverage the two–collective wisdom and independent thinking–to help teams evolve in positive ways?
That’s exactly what neuroscientist Mariano Sigman and his colleague Dan Ariely are in the process of researching. The duo theorized that breaking crowds into smaller groups would facilitate critical thinking and knowledge sharing while also giving good ideas the support of the collective. To test this idea, the researchers asked more than 10,000 attendees at a recent TEDx event in Buenos Aires what they thought the height of the Eiffel Tower was. Then, they asked the audience to divide into groups of five and asked them to come up with a collective answer. The finding: talking in small groups facilitates better collective judgment.
While this method helped the crowd solve simple right-or-wrong answers, it also helped in resolving moral dilemmas. What’s more is the researchers found that these groups reached a consensus—even when they were made up of people who had completely opposite views. This finding shows that good collective decisions require two components: discussion and diversity of opinions. In other words, forming small groups can really help create a collective decision that factors in the diversity of everyone’s opinion involved.
This method of decision-making could very well come in handy when attendees are making important business decisions at your next meeting. Learn more about how to encourage good decisions at meetings by watching this recent TED Talk.