Crowds are not wise. Nor are they ignorant. The intelligence, or lack thereof, resides in those of us who are trying to capture their momentum. Thought-provoking article arrived in my email box this morning from Booz Allen’s Strategy + Business. Penned by Nicholas Carr, it takes on the question of the day: just what is peer production good for anyway? His answer: look to crowds for optimization, not invention.
One fascinating point: once the crowds have been rallied to do their work, often a central authority possessing considerable talent is necessary to meld their efforts into a tangible product. Consider the Linux operating system and Wikipedia. Both rely on peer production. With Linux, coders invent and debug. With Wikipedia, experts of all stripes upload their expertise on all subjects. Linux runs for ages without crashing. Wikipedia, on the other hand, has some flaws. For one, Carr points out, the entry on the Flintstones is twice as long as the entry on Homer. (To say nothing of the entry on Smurfs….)