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Friday, August 5, 2011

Wisdom of Crowds: Post #5--Aggregation

Aggregation: The author discusses the NASA Mission Management Team (MMT) who decided that the foam panel couldn’t do much damage to the Challenger shuttle. He shows how the group started out with a “verdict” mentality. Listening to engineers say early on that such damage was highly unlikely, the MMT filtered out contrary information that might have taken them down a more productive path. The author also talks about studies of juries, those which are evidenced based (weigh all the evidence first) and verdict based (take an early poll and then work to convince outliers—think 12 Angry Men). And, he points out the various biases that come from verdict based juries and groups. Moreover, small groups get unduly and sometimes dangerously influenced by the effects of gender, experts, people who talk a lot, and people who talk first. He argues strongly that small groups need to fight against a verdict bias and should have a way of not only aggregating evidence independently but also making real decisions. [A sidebar here that’s not mentioned in the book: Action Learning is a method that overcomes most of the issues that confound and dull group decision making. Anyone interested in a terrific model for aggregating information should read the work of Reg Ravens and Michael Marquardt.]

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