A blog looking at business communication, knowledge management, scripting tools, OS technology news and other things of interest to mobile tech workers. As I find interesting news this will also contain pointers to thoughts related to configuration managment, change management and general software development.
James Surowiecki's remarkable book The Wisdom of Crowdshas caused me to re-think many of my ideas, and one of those ideas is the value and importance of experts. The concept of 'pathfinder' customers outlined above assumes that, to some extent, these ahead-of-the-curve customers are experts in their business and hence can provide expertise to your business above and beyond what the 'average' customer can offer. Surowiecki provides compelling evidence that experts are prone to overconfidence in their predictions and are not nearly as good at making predictions as larger numbers of 'ordinary' people reasonably informed and engaged in the issue. He would suggest, I think, that 'pathfinder' customers could well lead your company down the wrong path. What is needed, he argues, is a mechanism to capture the collective wisdom of a sizeable (the larger the better) group of intellectually diverse, independent, decentralized (i.e. each having access to unique, special knowledge) customers. He also argues that the process of bringing together groups of people to exchange and build on each others' ideas (as in Focus Groups and 'Thinking the Customer Ahead' sessions), while valuable in some contexts, can actually be worse than simply independently polling the group, because of the propensity of groups to 'Groupthink' -- to prematurely discount 'minority' views, and to self-censor radical thoughts and ideas. I'll have much more to say about The Wisdom of Crowds in an upcoming article. But it is clear that innovative companies need a mechanism to objectively capture customers' and employees' collective wisdom, not just the ideas of an elite few creative forward-thinkers.