The Internet has become a remarkable fount of economic and social innovation largely because it's been an archetypal level playing field, on which even sites with little or no money behind them - blogs, say, or Wikipedia - can become influential.

— James Surowiecki

The most special James Surowiecki quotes that will add value to your life

If companies tell us more, insider trading will be worth less.

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Paradoxically, the best way for a group to be smart is for each person in it to think and act as independently as possible.

46

Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle.

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I do think to some extent multitasking is a way of fooling ourselves that we're being exceptionally efficient.

24

The challenge for capitalism is that the things that breed trust also breed the environment for fraud.

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Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.

17

Making loans and fighting poverty are normally two of the least glamorous pursuits around, but put the two together and you have an economic innovation that has become not just popular but downright chic. The innovation - microfinance - involves making small loans to poor entrepreneurs, usually in developing countries.

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In the business world, bad news is usually good news - for somebody else.

15

For a crowd to be smart, the people in it need to be not only diverse in their perspectives but also, relatively speaking, independent of each other. In other words, you need people to be thinking for themselves, rather than following the lead of those around them.

12

Most of the work on multitasking suggests that it generally makes you less efficient, not more.

12

Campaigns fail if they waste resources courting voters who are unpersuadable or already persuaded. Their most urgent task is to find and persuade the few voters who are genuinely undecided and the larger number who are favorably disposed but need a push to actually vote.

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The financial crisis of 2008 was not caused by investment banks betting against the housing market in 2007. It was caused by the fact that too few investors - including all of the big investment banks - bet too heavily on the housing market in the years before 2007.

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About James Surowiecki

Quotes 168 sayings
Profession Journalist
Birthday October 16

The paradox of Steve Jobs's career is that he had no interest in listening to consumers - he was famously dismissive of market research - yet nonetheless had an amazing sense of what consumers actually wanted.

11

It may be that the very qualities that help people get ahead are the ones that make them ill-suited for managing crises. It's hard to prepare for the worst when you think you're the best.

10

The important thing about groupthink is that it works not so much by censoring dissent as by making dissent seem somehow improbable.

8

In the heart of the Great Depression, millions of American workers did something they'd never done before: they joined a union. Emboldened by the passage of the Wagner Act, which made collective bargaining easier, unions organized industries across the country, remaking the economy.

7

If we want our regulators to do better, we have to embrace a simple idea: regulation isn't an obstacle to thriving free markets; it's a vital part of them.

7

Publishers, naturally, loathe used books and have developed strategies to depress the secondhand market. They bring out new, even more expensive editions of popular textbooks every three to four years, in a classic cycle of planned obsolescence.

6

The truth is that the United States doesn't need, and shouldn't have, a debt ceiling. Every other democratic country, with the exception of Denmark, does fine without one.

5

In practice, downsizing is too often about cutting your work force while keeping your business the same, and doing so not by investments in productivity-enhancing technology, but by making people pull 80-hour weeks and bringing in temps to fill the gap.

5

Older people do a better job of managing their impulses, and so they're better able to put off putting off.

5

Until the nineteen-seventies, Western countries paid little attention to corruption overseas, and bribery was seen as an unpleasant but necessary part of doing business there. In some European countries, businesses were even allowed to deduct bribes as an expense.

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In conditions of uncertainty, humans, like other animals, herd together for protection.

5

The fundamental problem with banks is what it's always been: they're in the business of banking, and banking, whether plain vanilla or incredibly sophisticated, is inherently risky.

5

The fact that industries wax and wane is a reality of any economic system that wants to remain dynamic and responsive to people's changing tastes.

4

Procrastination also can be a way of self-handicapping: if you don't do a great job, you can always say to yourself, "If I'd only started sooner, I'd have been able to produce something excellent."

4

I think there is clearly a connection between free time and procrastination.

The more you have of the former, all things being equal, the more likely you are to procrastinate.

4

Steve Jobs was rare: a C.E.O. who actually had a huge impact on his company's fortunes. Contrary to corporate mythology, most C.E.O.s could be easily replaced, if not by your average Joe, then by your average executive vice-president. But Jobs genuinely earned the label of superstar.

4

Disasters redistribute money from taxpayers to construction workers, from insurance companies to homeowners, and even from those who once lived in the destroyed city to those who replace them. It's remarkable that this redistribution can happen so smoothly and quickly, with devastated regions reinventing themselves in a matter of months.

4

But, if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that self-regulation doesn’t work in finance, and that worries about reputation are a weak deterrent to corporate malfeasance.

4

Instead of mindlessly tossing billions at or taking billions from the Net as such, investors should be spending their time making sure that it's the future Fords and General Motors of cyberspace that are getting the capital they need.

3

The world's central banks and the International Monetary Fund still have vaults full of bullion, even though currencies are no longer backed by gold. Governments hold on to it as a kind of magic symbol, a way of reassuring people that their money is real.

3

The ban on sports betting does exactly what Prohibition did. It makes criminals rich.

3

Developing countries often have hypertrophied bureaucracies, requiring businesses to deal with enormous amounts of red tape.

3

The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing, a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people. This is the perplexing thing about procrastination: although it seems to involve avoiding unpleasant tasks, indulging in it generally doesn't make people happy.

3

Patrimonial capitalism's legacy is that many people see reform as a euphemism for corruption and self-dealing.

3

Self-dealing, essentially, occurs when managers run companies to line their own pockets instead of those of the companies' owners. It's been a perennial problem in American capitalism and became a real dilemma when America moved toward a model in which corporations would be run by professional managers who had only small ownership stakes.

3

The Xbox 360 is the best game console ever designed.

It's fast and powerful - games look as good on the 360 as on high-end PCs that cost six times as much. It's easy to navigate and has lots of useful secondary features - the ability to play digital video, stream MP3s, and so on.

3

It's a familiar truism that at any one moment, financial markets are dominated by either fear or greed. But the healthiest markets are those that are animated by both fear and greed at the same time.

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Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, allowing us to do things more quickly and efficiently. But too often it seems to make things harder, leaving us with fifty-button remote controls, digital cameras with hundreds of mysterious features and book-length manuals, and cars with dashboard systems worthy of the space shuttle.

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Corporations hope that the right concept will turn things around overnight.

This is what you might call the crash-diet approach: starve yourself for a few days and you'll be thin for life.

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Downsizing itself is an inevitable part of any creatively destructive economy.

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Most corporate name changes are the result of mergers and acquisitions.

But these tend to be unimaginative.

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In the days when corporate downsizing was all the rage, Wall Street took a lot of flak for judging companies too harshly and setting the bar for corporate performance so high that executives felt their only option was to slash payrolls.

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Movies' mistrust of capitalism is almost as old as the medium itself.

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A general principle of good taxation is that similar jobs, and similar kinds of compensation, should be taxed the same way: otherwise, the government is effectively subsidizing some jobs over others.

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If you thought the advent of the Internet, the spread of cheap and efficient information technology, and the growing fragmentation of the consumer market were all going to help smaller companies thrive at the expense of the slow-moving giants of the Fortune 500, apparently you were wrong.

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The desire for reinvention seems to arise most often when companies hear the siren call of synergy and start to expand beyond their core businesses.

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Being out of a job can erode people's confidence and their sense of possibility;

and employers, often unfairly, tend to take long-term unemployment as a signal that something is wrong.

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