Managing complexity requires a new mind-set.
In complex systems patterns of behaviour emerge through interactions between people and surroundings that can rapidly escalate if they find reinforcement. This is why a peaceful crowd can turn into a hateful mob in seconds. These shifts are also often difficult to predict beforehand.
Fortunately the reverse is also true. Crowds can also be 'wiser' than any person within it. This phenomenon was proven 100 years ago at a farmer's market in England and has been used since by Nobel peace prize winners to help the poor. Simple constraints make it work, but the phenomenon is consistent.
The 'wisdom of crowds' matters because all of us - regardless of who we are - are subject to mental biases that distort the information we take in. For example, count the number of F’s in the following text:
“Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of years.”Three?
Actually there are six F's here. This isn't a brain failure - there are evolutionary reasons why we don't see everything - it's cognitive bias and highlights the importance of taking many perspectives before acting.
For managing complex systems requires learning how to spot weak signals of emerging trends as early as you can. If you detect positive signals early enough you can amplify those and ride that wave ahead of your rivals. While negative signals can be quickly disrupted before they become threats that overwhelm you.
Tapping the wisdom of crowds may be the smartest decision leaders can make today