Is the Wisdom of Crowds Really All that Wise? (Especially in Performance Management)

Recognize This! – The insights of the many are nearly always more knowledgeable and accurate than the insights of one.

The annual performance review is broken. We all know this. I’ve written about the reasons why (too infrequent, given from one point of view) several times.

The solution? Applying the wisdom of the crowds to performance management (and not through a forced 360-degree review process, but through a more natural mechanism).

How does this work? This fun (if a bit juvenile) video from the TV show Nova on the U.S.’s public broadcasting station explains how the wisdom of crowds works. (Email viewers, click through for the video.)

The video explains the initial research on the wisdom of crowds that began with 800 attendees to a county fair in England guessing the weight of an ox. The result? “While no individual guessed the actual weights, the average of all the guesses is exactly right.”

Experts on the show go on to explain (at about the 3:00 mark):

“The average will generally be better than a randomly selected individual guess. The average of the masses assures of success. And the more guesses we throw in, the more likely we are to get the right answer.”

That’s where the wisdom of the crowds becomes applicable to performance management. Instead of relying on a single manager (or a small, pre-selected group of people for 360-degree feedback), rely on the masses instead. Instead of “guessing” at an employee’s performance, everyone else in the organization can contribute their feedback through timely, specific and very detailed recognition of others for demonstrating your core values while contributing to achieving your strategic objectives.

Taking this a step further, listen closely for this expert comment in the video:

“If you have a group of people and they each of have tiny bits of information, then you can learn a lot if you can just gather all of those bits together.”

Gathering all those bits of feedback together is the tricky part. That’s where a system comes in to not only aggregate and report on that feedback in one place, but to also correlate the crowdsourced feedback to more formal performance management processes. Blending the traditional managerial feedback and review process with the wisdom of crowds leads us to optimum solution to performance management in the 21st century – The Crowdsourced Performance Review. That link goes to the book written by my CEO, Eric Mosley, on how this works in far greater detail. I encourage you to check it out.

Do you apply the wisdom of crowds to performance management in your organization?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

4 Responses

  1. […] second major change is the social component, and within social you have the idea of crowdsourcing feedback like the travel guide example. In traditional organizations, you follow everything down the […]

  2. […] Crowdsourced feedback and recognition can address the limitations of traditional performance reviews. […]

  3. […] 1. Crowdsourced feedback and recognition can address the limitations of traditional performance reviews. […]

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