Who knows more about risk?

The Wisdom of the CrowdsIn important matters of uncertainty involving predictions we need to hear from a diverse group of people that have different perspectives, and perhaps a stake in the decision that causes them to think before offering their views.

Collectively, the diverse group is smarter than individuals. This is the core message of The Wisdom of the Crowds by James Surowiecki.

Surowiecki provides a framework with examples of when and how the knowledge of the crowd can impact decisions positively.

This idea applies well to regulation. Why? Because regulators are generally a step or two removed from the uncertainties they need to know about. First-hand knowledge about these risks reside with the regulated parties.

As well, the sources of uncertainty in most jurisdictions are dispersed and mostly invisible until they are brought to the attention of the regulator. The collective knowledge of constituents (regulatees and individuals who are affected by what regulatees do) is far greater than the regulator. Effective new methods for capturing this knowledge will improve regulatory oversight.

The reasons why a regulator might be cautious about open consultations are too obvious to mention. It’s a more challenging matter to think about how to make these kind of consultations work for a regulatory organization.

Internet technologies present one option. If you want examples and inspiration, read Wickinomics, by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. Or see how “wisdom of the crowds” works in the redevelopment of this book using wiki technology.

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