Between Mindsharing and Mindfulness: Musings on the wisdom of the crowd

Many people extol the arrival of a new era of mindsharing where social networks enable us to consult with the wisdom of the crowd. Experiments such as the famous cow weighing experiments demonstrate that a crowd can sometimes arrive at conclusions better than any individual contributor. Referring to , one of the books who started discussing this topic we find that most crowds don’t really bother reading the basic requirements for effective wisdom generation as laid out in this book; In some cases, groups are remarkably intelligent and are often smarter than the smartest people in them. The three conditions for a group to be intelligent are diversity, independence, and decentralization. The best decisions are a product of disagreement and contest. Too much communication can make the group as a whole less intelligent. So it seems that by their very nature, social networks are not a good medium for mindsharing. Networks for mindsharing should actually separate the questions from the answers. People who are answering should not see other answers, and most probably should not see who is asking the question, but if this is the case, why would people participate ? This answer should probably be answered by startups trying to build networks for mindsharing. My interest is the relation of the motivation problem to open innovation. In many cases open innovation is a contest based, non information sharing platform, so it meets the basic requirements. However, as anyone who has dabbled in open innovation quickly finds out, the return on invested time is abysmally low. In fact many times you compete with hundreds of teams for an illusive target. The chances of winning are low, even if you are an expert at the particular field. The solution adopted in some platforms is publicity for winners. However this solution does not scale well, as there is always only one first place. People fare better by writing articles and publishing their work. Digging deeper into most platforms actually reveals an interesting fact; very few people actually participate in these platforms. After all platforms which aim to tap the knowledge of humanity, only attract a few thousand experts of which most don’t actually participate in the different competitions. So while crowds can be wise, its an open game to find ways to motivate the individuals to make this happen.

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