Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The wisdom of crowds

Recently at church a word* was brought about there being "wells of wisdom" in people and these wells need to be released to serve the wider body. It just so happens that I had started to read a book called The Wisdom of the Crowd by James Surowiecki. The premise of the book is that the diversity and mixture of a large group comes to better decisions than a small number of experts time and time again - hence the crowd has wisdom.

To include many or the majority of people in any decisions or involvement in an organisation can be hard and even seen as just wrong. In leadership terms it seems counter intuitive. We think of the best leadership as strong, clear, leading ahead, setting the direction and coming from the few key leaders or indeed the one main leader who holds the vision for the organisation. But if Surowiecki is right then this is not the wisest course of action, to keep all decisions to the few or the one person - the crowd would help make better decisions.

So how do we release the wisdom of the crowd (those wells that we all have) in a church or indeed any organisation? I have some thoughts but not many and I 'm only half way through the book! I do think that this is something that we need to look at and investigate as our society (our communities and organisations) become both more fragmented (and disconnected from leadership) and at the same time more instantly connected (often through social media - facebook, twitter et al).

What do you think?

* "a word" is what Christians would describe as a prophetic word - a feeling, picture or idea that a person believes is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Funnily enough the bible talks about the weighing or interpreting of these is to be done by the crowd! (1 Cor 14:29)


  1. I think part of the answer is leading in a way that releases that wisdom in people and being open as to the shape of what the local church looks like ( in that the people shape and give flavour to who they are ) rather than trying to squeeze it into some concept or design or strategy.

    It's scary but hightly effective and very powerful. It's about stepping back and asking who has God given me here? Who are these people? What could I help them and therefore the local body become? Rather than what the latest fad is. Or seeing the local chuech as a way of outworking some personal vision disconnected from who God has actually given you.

  2. Excellent suggestion Mike and very biblical as the church is a body, so its no good trying to set it up as a head with twenty feet and no body!