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How Many Minds Produce Knowledge

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If two heads are better than one, then three or four heads are even better. How group decision making works.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Engaging


In this delightful book, Cass R. Sunstein offers a cogent, compact and gently witty discussion of information sharing. His explanations of how different knowledge-aggregation processes work are extremely useful. They range from the theoretical (laying out the philosophical structures underpinning deliberation) to the practical (offering focused and specific suggestions for improvement). This certainly isn’t the first book on how groups create knowledge – thinkers have rushed to make sense of the new possibilities that information technology presents. It is, however, one of the more quietly critical approaches, one that debunks extreme claims, points out the dangers that balance the often-trumpeted benefits and shares first-hand experiences. Sunstein is an enthusiast for certain types of collective information processing, but he is far from naïve. getAbstract recommends this book to managers interested in improving organizational decision making.


Sharing What You Know

Individuals have “bits of information” that, if shared, would benefit the groups to which they belong. However, groups often fail to put all this information together. As a result, everybody suffers. You can make this information available in four basic ways:

  1. Deliberating, or educating one another about your points of view.
  2. Gathering ideas from individual members, then averaging them.
  3. Setting up a “prediction market,” in which group members communicate their positions by buying and selling resources.
  4. Creating online meeting places where group members share ideas.

The Internet enhances both constructive and destructive communication. It puts you in touch with the people of your choice, which often means those who think as you do. If you connect exclusively with like-minded people, you can enclose yourself in an “information cocoon,” where you hear only what you want to hear. Imagine how destructive this would be for a business: If your organization heard only good things, it would miss all kinds of warning signs.

Why Deliberation Works

Aristotle believed...

About the Author

Cass R. Sunstein teaches at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of Radicals in Robes, and other books.

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