Crowd Cheering

February 9, 2012

by LIOR ZOREF @lior

imageLately, I have been approached by a lot of wonderful people wishing me luck, offering their assistance, showing their interest and asking lots of questions.

It happens not only on Facebook but also in the supermarket, at the Cafe and even at the doctor’s office.

Here are a few recent insights from the last few days.


The ox experiment

One of the questions that I have been asked frequently is “So, Lior, how much does the ox weight?”

A lot of people fear how the results of the ox experiment at TED will manifest. Why? In this modern day era (as opposed to a hundred years ago) people are not used to seeing an ox, let alone estimate the weight of a particular ox!

A very well-known professor, who I admire greatly, told me to watch out! The original crowd wisdom experiment which took place 100 years ago was performed using an audience of professionals, who knew how to evaluate the weight of an ox.

Five days ago I published photos of the ox that will be on stage with me at TED.I asked you to evaluate it’s weight based only on the pictures.

I received 250 different and diverse answers ranging starting by 1/5 of the real weight up to 4 times more than the real weight!

I opened an excel sheet and with great anxiety calculated the average. I will not expose the actual weight here (I will do that during my TED talk), but when I saw the results, my heart missed a beat. The calculated average is less than 1 lbs away from the exact weight! Amazing isn’t it?

That is crowd wisdom. It works today just as it did 100 years ago in a little English village.


Quantity VS quality in crowd wisdom

Finding the weight of the ox is a question simply calculated. You ask the crowd a quantitative question and calculate the average. But if you ask an open question, one that has a qualitative answer, what is crowd wisdom?

There are two ways to do this:

a. A question where you are looking for collective insight. For example, when we need to make a decision with limited possibilities as answers, the collective insight comes from the answers repeated the most, the average is the majority.

b. A question where you are looking for a creative idea. For example, when I was looking for an example to explain the crowd wisdom theory one of the suggestions was to bring an ox on stage. That idea was one of a kind. It is not an average , calculated by the answers. In this case the use of crowd wisdom is like searching for gold. You have to dig through all the ideas to identify the creative ones. If you use Facebook, these ideas will probably stand out, by the “likes” from other people.


Crowd wisdom as a tool for motivation and inspiration.

This insight I gained only today after having a conversation with my friend Shmuel Merhav.

Beyond the wise ideas and the feedback I received, the crowd has given me much more than just wisdom, the most significant being encouragement and motivation.

You can call it crowd cheering.

It started the day I told my friends about my dream and how many of them told me “you are worthy and capable, go for it”. For me, those responses were the catalyst in deciding to pursue my dream. The encouragement has continued, with lots of kind words, and as a result, is pushing me forward with an intensity that I have never felt before!

Think of a soccer or basketball team about to lose a game. Then, the crowd starts cheering loudly. Imagine what power and motivation it gives to the team.

That is what I get from you in digital form. You push me forward! It’s just as important as the smart ideas. You know what? It’s even more important.

Thank you.

(19 days to go)

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