I read *Wisdom of Crowds* a while ago and was taken in by its arguments...
The basic idea being that for a lot of decision-making, getting an average or composite of a group opinion is better than a vast majority of the individual opinions. Whether it's counting jellybeans or investing in the stock market, Joe Whoever isn't going to do as good a job as the average. This has led me to be maybe a little more willing to build consensus and compromise than I should be.
Because here's the counter-argument: we don't care about whether the wisdom of crowds is better than the wisdom of the random individual. We care about whether the wisdom of crowds is better than the skilled individual.
A question I have not heard asked: does someone trained in jellybean estimation tend to beat the jellybean estimating crowd? Or - in a series of jellybean estimation exercises, do we tend to find that one or more people consistently beat the average?
I ran a little experiment with some friends at Treyarch a few E3's ago. We played a game where I gave them a list of games that were being shown at that E3 and we all looked at them and guessed what their gamerankings scores would be. Just like with jellybean estimation, the average guess tended to be better than the random individual guess. Here's the thing - one guy (Alex Bortoluzzi) - was right on the money every time, consistently beating everyone else and the average. Our sample size was too small to draw any really scientific conclusions (from a list of 10 games only 6 ended up ever shipping!) but when I wanted to know how Spider-Man 2 was going to do in the rankings, I didn't run a decision market. I just asked Alex. He turned out to be right. (A lot easier to do than run a decision market, also.)
A more famous example is Warren Buffet. He consistently seriously outperforms the S&P. Although he's humble - in *The Essays of Warren Buffet* he makes it sound like anybody could do it -I'm not about to start picking individual stocks, because when it comes to the stock market I'm Joe Anyone and the average is likely to beat me.
So maybe the question we should be asking when making game design and business decisions is probably not, "What does everyone think? Can we come to an acceptable compromise?" But rather, "Who's our Warren Buffet? And what does he think?"
Of course, if you're in charge, and you decide that you're the Warren Buffet...then you've just taken a step down from being the Level 5 leader to being the Level 4 one. (Or maybe even lower...)
So that gives me a good opportunity to do the Socratic thing. What do you guys think? Compromise? Blindly Follow The Leader? Or Is There Something Better?