The Story of the Ox

In 1906, a British scientist named Francis Galton attended a county fair in Plymouth, England. There he observed a competition that spontaneously took place when the crowd noticed an ox. The goal of the competition was to guess how much this ox weighed.

Eight hundred people entered and, at the time, crowds were basically synonymous with mobs and were seen as an out of control entity and were not to be trusted, so this attracted Galton to be a non-participatory observant. He wanted to see how accurate the crowd would be at guessing the exact weight, so he ran statistical tests on the numbers. He discovered that the average guess (1,197Ib) was extremely close to the actual weight (1,198Ib) of the ox.

Thus, the crowd gave a more accurate guess than anyone else including the experts in the crowd. This story was told by James Surowiecki in his book the Wisdom of Crowds and has also influenced CrowdBridge CEO John Stroud in his execution of “Guess the Number of Jellybeans” events in Ottawa.

This story demonstrates that the wisdom of the crowd is not a new discovery, but can be used to solve new problems and answer new questions in society as we know it today. A modern twist that CrowdBridge contains is the chance to submit your own question to the platform for the crowd to answer. What are some social/political/environmental (etc.) questions that you believe the crowd would more accurately be able to answer than those in power? CrowdBridge happily offers you this voice to use on matters of all sorts.

Help us expand the voice of the crowd by liking and sharing our Facebook page and website with your friends. Let’s use the story of the ox and apply it to modern issues and make a difference!

Leah Cross

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