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Talent, Experts and the Wisdom of Crowds

I have the great privilege of hanging out with a lot of really talented and smart people at West Virginia University, in West Virginia, and throughout the country.

"The Wisdom of Crowds"

One of the things that is apparent is that intelligence and talent is asymmetric – different people are good at different things and don’t see the world the same.

James Surowiecki described this phenomenon in his book, “The Wisdom of Crowds.” He points out that a distributed team of different thinkers can almost always come up with better solutions than single experts. This is true for humans, ants, bees and for solving complex problems.

In fact, there is some research that random crowds of people are better at solving problems than expert groups.

Why is this true?

Well, the explanation may be that groups consider a diversity of ideas and bring a diversity of thought better than experts or expert groups. Diversity leads to better thinking and better decision-making.

In his book, “The Power of Pull,” John Seely Brown suggests true innovation happens on the interface of disciplines – the edges. This area is also consistent with the concept that bringing together diverse areas of expertise and thought can lead to innovation.

How do we apply these insights to building our talent in our state and at our University?

We have proffered the idea that real health is as much grounded in prosperity (economic development and job) and education, as it is in technical healthcare delivery.

Thus, we need to seek a diversity of others' input. Only by listening to a broad range of voices can can we find the innovations in healthcare that will reverse the declines in our overall health. Changing health will mean better education and jobs for our citizens.

We can restore an abundance mindset through hope and caring. We can return respect and pride to our communities by making them cleaner and more beautiful places to live.

We need good ideas and innovators. What is our platform for the state?

Working in an inter, and trans-disciplinary, way can lead to real breakthroughs of thinking.

Seek input from areas outside of your immediate field or knowledge base – there may be magic in an adjacent area.

The harder the problem, the more we need to seek counsel from a diverse group.

From local entrepreneurs to grassroots organizations to community leaders, we need to get started and work together. Doing more will teach us more and advance the wave of progress in West Virginia.

We are not there yet, but together, collaborating, and aligned – from the north to the central to the south; from the churches to the businesses to the universities; from the young to the old; we can better the lives of our people and the future of our state.