Introducing Collective Wisdom Index Alpha

Following up on the blog post “Toward a Wisdom Index” this post introduces the first such index, “Collective Wisdom Index Alpha.” I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on this nascent effort.

The index recognizes two conditions:

  1. The level of wisdom or folly that emerges from a group is largely independent of the wisdom of the individual group members.
  2. There are many concepts of wisdom and few efforts to measure it.

Therefore it is presented tentatively as version 0.1 of one member of a family of indices I hope can be created.

I encourage you to put this index to use. Use it to assess the various groups you participate in. Perhaps it can directly help us to improve academic philosophy. If those of you who are members of, or connected to, academic philosophy departments use this index to assess and improve the collective wisdom of those departments, it may represent a step forward.

Would it be useful for us to use the index to evaluate the performance of this Global Circle?

What do you think?

Thanks for your consideration of this on-going work.

4 thoughts on “Introducing Collective Wisdom Index Alpha

  1. Hi Lee. Thanks for this. Like Ian, I’d like to make a general comment first. I haven’t looked at the link yet (but I will), so my present comment has only to do with your introduction.

    I, also, have a correction to what you call Condition 1. I agree that individual wisdom and so-called group wisdom — the wisdom that does or doesn’t emerge from groups of individuals — are not identical, and are pretty far from identical. But, like Ian, I don’t agree that they are “largely independent”, as you say. And, I’ll go even farther than that, by suggesting this: If a group is substantially unwise, and its dynamics and actions reflect that (I’ll call it) foolishness, not many of its members can be genuinely considered wise, and one consideration in the assessment of who is genuinely “wise” in the group must involve whether and how, and to what degree, that person is trying to bring wisdom to the group itself, to cure the group of its foolishness. Of course, these are matters of degree and also ability. But if a group is acting unwisely, and if six of its ten members claim to be wise as individuals, and if they aren’t doing much to correct the group of its foolishness, then something just doesn’t add up; and it’s quite likely that many, and perhaps all, of the six who claim to be wise are actually something much narrower than genuinely wise.

    Indeed, this is a question, perhaps the question, that should be posed about academic philosophy and academia more broadly, these days. See my post ‘Alien Observations’. Something is “unwell in Denmark”, so to speak (although this isn’t the precise quote, of course), if the human race is acting foolishly and yet if the vast majority of people in the academy claim to be wise and the vast majority of those in the philosophy departments also claim to be fairly wise. A foolish world and a wise academy with a wise philosophy department are not consistent with each other, especially if the philosophy department and academy aren’t being highly active in trying to correct the foolishness of the world as quickly as possible. In such a case as we are presently in, someone is making claims to “wisdom” that aren’t justified. Right?

    Cheers and Be Well,


    • Jeff,
      Thanks for this. Note that I wrote the post, including Rule #1 while the US Congress had shut down the government and was heading for default. My observation is that individual congressman are generally pretty bright, but Congress as an organization is failing. We can certainly debate if Ted Cruze is wise, personally I believe he is brilliant and cunning, but selfish and therefore unwise. We often hear the suggestion of firing all the congressmen and starting over. Frankly I don’t think that will change much. Therefore I conclude it is something about the way these people are collected together, organized, and motivated, rather than their individual wisdom, that is the predominant factor. Please take a look at the actual instrument. It emphasizes deep listening and trust. Both are absent in congress. I look forward to a return to “statesmanship” but it may be a very long way off. See: for more on that idea.

      In any case, I intended this post to be nothing more than a link to the instrument itself, see:

      I look forward to receiving comments on the instrument.

    • I have just come across a quote that more artfully expresses the key concept.

      “What we know about individuals, no matter how rich the details, will never give us the ability to predict how they will behave as a system. Once individuals link together they become something different … Relationships change us, reveal us, evoke more from us. Only when we join with others do our gifts become visible, even to ourselves.” ~ Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers.

      The observation that group dynamics often prevail to shape the wisdom of a group caused me to segregate indices into one set for assessing individual wisdom, and a second set for assessing collective wisdom.



  2. Hi Lee, if I could just comment first at a general level, before I review the attachment, I’ve been watching this develop with interest but not commented yet.

    Under 1. – I think “largely independent” is not quite right. They are certainly distinct things, to be recognised and considered as such – agreed – but of course they do co-evolve and are therefore inter-dependent. Individuals ideas and behaviours they consider wise arise from the cultural constituencies / contexts in which they develop, and the shared ideas and behaviours of particular groups arise from both the members and the wider overlapping contexts and constituencies. So distinct considerations, sure, but fluidly inter-dependent.

    Under 2. – I think “considering” definitions and distinctions that constitute the properties, behaviours and virtues of wisdom (individual and group) is very valuable – to focus and clarify thinking – to achieve some shared consensus on these (I can see already some quite wide variations in our different views). Indeces to rank / rate / compare as part of that “conversation” on what makes individuals and groups wise is therefore also valuable. What concerns me though is the word “measure” as if the indeces of individuals, groups are themselves “objectively” valuable. Management by measurement is notorious for devaluing the measures of value. Working definitions are good in the sense that “good fences make good neighbours”, but we must avoid turning such definitions into “objectives” – quantifiable, measurable targets.

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