Mindsharing: The Art of Crowdsourcing Everything

Mindsharing: The Art of Crowdsourcing Everything

by Lior Zoref


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Whether we need to make better financial choices, find the love of our life, or transform our career, crowdsourcing is the key to making quicker, wiser, more objective decisions. But few of us even come close to tapping the full potential of our online personal networks. Lior Zoref offers proven guidelines for applying what he calls "mind sharing" in new ways. For instance, he shows how a mother's Facebook update saved the life of a four-year-old boy, and how a manager used LinkedIn to create a year's worth of market research in less than a day. Zoref's clients are using his techniques to innovate and problem-solve in record time. Now he reveals how crowdsourcing has the ability to supercharge our thinking and upgrade every aspect of our lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781591846659
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Lior Zoref is a crowd wisdom researcher, an international speaker, and a consultant. He worked for fourteen years at Microsoft, most recently as VP of Marketing for Consumer and Online Services.

Read an Excerpt


Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.


Leo had a fever and a rash. His mother, Deborah, wasn’t overly alarmed. Kids get sick all the time and fevers can come and go in a four-year-old boy. It was a Sunday and Mother’s Day. The last thing Deborah wanted to do was spend the day in a waiting room, but she still dutifully took Leo to the pediatrician’s office for an emergency visit.

From the waiting room, Deborah updated her Facebook status: Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day quite like a Sunday morning at the pediatrician. After examining Leo, the doctor diagnosed strep and gave Leo a prescription for antibiotics. Deborah updated her status on Facebook once again. Strep. No Biggie.

A few days later, Leo’s condition had worsened. The antibiotics didn’t seem to be working, and as they waited for the results of yet another throat culture, Deborah took a picture of Leo looking miserable on the examining room table. She posted his photo on her Facebook wall and updated her status once again. Baby getting sicker. Eyes swollen shut. Fever rising. Penicillin not working. Might be Scarlet fever. Or Roseola. Or . . . ???? Sigh.

Deborah received many comments of support, and best wishes, and hopes for a speedy recovery for Leo. The next day she posted another picture of Leo, this time from home with his trusty stuffed bear at his side. This status read: Swelling worse, especially eyes and chin. Fever still crazy high. Poor baby.

Some people suggested he might have an allergy. Some said it must be scarlet fever. Others told her not to worry and offered hopes for a diagnosis soon. The crowd tried to provide their support as best they could. Many were parents themselves, and knew just how frightening it is to have your child sick and be helpless to do anything about it.

Soon after this last post, Deborah received a call from a Facebook friend who had been following her posts. Stephanie wasn’t a doctor, but a mother, and she shared with Deborah that her son had had the exact same symptoms, and ended up being hospitalized for Kawasaki disease, a rare and often fatal illness. “You have to get to the hospital,” Stephanie insisted. “The longer you wait, the worse the damage.”

Deborah found her inbox filled with private messages. Two more Facebook friends, pediatricians, also suggested Kawasaki disease, and urged Deborah to take Leo to the hospital immediately.

In a little more than an hour, three different people suggested that Leo might have this very rare and fatal condition. Without having a name for it at the time, Deborah was engaging in Mindsharing. Deborah was turning to the wisdom of her crowd, her social network, and by her doing so, Leo’s life was saved. In a blog post about her experience, Deborah wrote, “Was I consciously trying to find an answer out there in the hive mind? No, but some subconscious part of me must have been wondering whether one of my hundreds of ‘friends’ might be privy to some expertise on the befuddling Nutty Professor syndrome that had my child in its grips.”

After rushing Leo to the hospital and confirming the diagnosis from her crowd, Deborah told the pediatrician about the crowd’s diagnosing Kawasaki disease. His response? “Bravo Facebook.” Deborah knew that her status updates, posted photos, and the collective wisdom of her crowd had saved her son’s life.

Was Deborah’s experience a fluke? Was it nothing more than a fortuitous mixture of fate and luck aligning at just the right time to save a four-year-old boy’s life? Or had Deborah, by chance and by a mother’s desperation, stumbled upon one of the most powerful resources available to us all?


We all struggle to make the best decisions possible when it comes to our careers, finances, parenting, health, and relationships. But what if we could make every important decision with the help of the smartest people in the world? It might sound impossible, but it’s not. All of us have the ability to access the collective wisdom of hundreds or even thousands of people who together are as smart as any expert adviser.

Making the right decisions is tough. Whenever we have an important decision to make, it can be difficult to put our feelings aside and make a rational and objective choice. Any emotion can affect our decision making, often long after the emotional incident has passed. A research study published by Eduardo Andrade and Dan Ariely shows that even “the influence of mild incidental emotions on decision making can live longer than the emotional experience itself.”1 What this means is that our decisions can be, and often are, fundamentally irrational or flawed. Andrade and Ariely’s research shows that even a minor emotional incident can become the basis upon which we make future decisions. And the kicker is, we aren’t even aware of it at the time. Someone cuts you off in traffic on your way to work and, much later in the day, you reject a business offer that’s been in the works for weeks. You may not even think of the traffic incident ever again, but that fleeting annoyance, that surge of emotionally driven anger at the other driver, can affect your business decisions, or your personal decisions, and you won’t even realize it.

When we reach out to the crowd for wisdom, we are able to access decision-making skills that are free of our own emotion. We are able to seek out the solutions to our problems and weigh our choices free of the bias intrinsic to unilateral decision making. If we learn to rely on and trust the wisdom of the crowd, our decisions will be better, quicker, and easier. There is a power in crowd wisdom, and this power is harnessed through technology and social media. The crowd (specifically, Aya Shapir, a young marketing professional in my crowd) has named this power “Mindsharing.” And while it may sound like some futuristic version of a Star Trek Vulcan mind meld, it is a simple way to use the tools and technology already at hand to access and share our greatest human resource—one another.

Only this type of mind meld isn’t limited to two minds.

It is important to note that when we Mindshare, we are not asking others to think for us, but rather, to think with us. And when others think with us it substantially improves our ability to make decisions and the quality of those decisions. I’m not saying that you surrender your free will and lay every future decision at the feet of the crowd, but through actively Mindsharing you can access the global brain (which is far more powerful than any individual brain) and hack your way into a better career, stronger relationships, and the fulfillment of virtually any dream or goal you can imagine.


Growing up I was taught that it is better to lead than to follow. Who has not heard their parents say, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump off one too?” We live in a time and a culture where great value is placed on individuality, on thinking for oneself independent of the herd. In the age of Mindsharing, there is a new paradigm to explore where greater value is placed on collective intelligence and collective problem solving. We are smarter as a group than we can ever be as individuals. In his 2004 book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki argued that under certain conditions, the many are smarter than the few. The crux of crowd wisdom theory is that if you take a large crowd of people and ask them a question, their collective intelligence will be as smart as the answer of an expert.

Leveraging crowd wisdom through Mindsharing doesn’t mean following the herd. It doesn’t mean giving up our autonomy or independence. The crowd isn’t making the decision, we are. But through the process of Mindsharing we gain access to information, insights, and knowledge that will improve our thinking and our lives dramatically. Make no mistake, Mindsharing is not groupthink. By definition, groupthink happens when a small group makes a faulty decision based on a misguided loyalty to the group or because the group is seeking harmony or conformity more than they are seeking truth. This conformity is often rationalized by a moral “rightness” to the belief system or values of the group. There is no diversity of opinion or dissenting voices when you have groupthink. By nature, groupthink does not invite independent thinking.

Mindsharing, however, can happen only with independent thinking, a diverse and heterogeneous group, and without any preformed belief in the “correct” decision or outcome. Crowd wisdom is the end result only when you have diverse and conflicting viewpoints that are generated by a large group of people of different ages, backgrounds, and areas of interest or expertise.

Mindsharing is the opposite of groupthink. It is a purposeful and pointed attempt to access the collective knowledge of humanity (or at least a large social network).


Have you ever witnessed a flock of birds flying in complete harmony? It is a sophisticated and synchronized ballet, but how do they do it? How do they know? How do honeybees decide in unison to move to a new nest? What about swarming ants? Schools of fish? Animals have a fascinating collective mind, and a collective decision-making process that has proven successful and ensured their survival.

When we make decisions or solve a problem, we are engaging in important cognitive processes. Mindsharing enhances our individual cognition or cognitive processes by utilizing the cognition of the crowd. Whenever the crowd solves a problem together, or makes a decision together, this is collective cognition, and the end result is collective intelligence.

In 2009, researcher and Princeton University professor Iain Couzin published findings about the group behavior of animals that demonstrated collective cognition.2 He showed how animals use social interactions for collective decision making. For example, when honeybees need to choose a new nest, they send separate scouts to investigate potential nest locations. When each scout returns, he does a dance for the other bees. This “waggle dance” communicates their recommendation. The longer the dance, the more enthusiastic they are about the nest. If the dance is convincing, more bees join and investigate the new nest, and return to dance alongside the original bee as a way to show consensus. This creates a positive feedback loop. At the end, the biggest dancing group prevails, and all the honeybees decide collectively that this is the best option for the group and as a group they move to their new nest.

What about humans? What could we accomplish if we had the same ability to tap into our collective minds and utilize our collective cognition?

In the past, if someone wanted to seek crowd wisdom, he or she would have to invest resources in order to find and interact with a big crowd. Today, many people have hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of social networking friends in their own crowd. If you are one of these people, you are lucky. You can use the collective intelligence of your friends when you have a pressing question that needs an expert answer. If you are not yet one of these people, don’t despair—this book will teach you how to Mindshare with special Web sites and tools that you will be able to use, even if you have never seen a Facebook page in your life. If you update your status at every meal but only have your Grandma Jean and your two buddies from fifth-grade summer camp on your friends list, this book will also teach you how to grow your social network so that you can begin to utilize and benefit from Mindsharing.

Even if you regularly ask your social network for their opinion or help, this book will help you take this form of crowdsourcing to an entirely new level. Mindsharing happens when we make purposeful and directed attempts to access the collective intelligence of the crowd and harness this intelligence to make our lives and our world better. Just as the honeybees become what scientists call a “super-organism” when they use collective decision making, we too can become a super-organism when we Mindshare. There is power in turning to anyone, especially your friends, for help. But there is even more power when you turn to the friends of your friends—those outside your closest network and those you don’t know very well and who don’t know you very well. Sociology calls them our “weak ties.”

In 1973, Professor Mark Granovetter from Johns Hopkins University published his paper “The Strength of Weak Ties.”3 His research explains why it is the weak ties in any social network that are the most important. Granovetter defines weak ties as acquaintances rather than close friends and family. For example, if you have two separate and distinct neighborhoods, or social networks, the only thing connecting them is their weak ties. If Joe knows Bob in neighborhood A, and Joe also knows Bill in neighborhood C, then Joe is the weak tie that connects the two neighborhoods and also the only connection between Bob and Bill. Granovetter explains that social networks that have more weak ties have the ability to coordinate more easily and make changes faster. Individuals with more weak ties (think of all those friends of friends on Facebook) also have faster mobility as well as greater access to resources. Weak ties are the bridges between us and any innovation or effective change we wish to make in our life. Weak ties are also where we get access to new information, novel ideas, and different areas of expertise. Our strong ties tend to be those who are most like us, but our weak ties are our link to the heterogeneity we need to Mindshare and access crowd wisdom.

In the book Connected, authors Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler4 present research that confirms what Granovetter discovered in 1973—it is our weak ties that help us more than our strong ties. But what Christakis and Fowler also discovered is that while our strong ties, or immediate friends and family, have great impact on our personal lives, and even our health, our weak ties can also greatly affect us. For example, their research shows that an obese person has more friends who are obese. And also more friends of friends who are obese. And also more friends of friends of friends who are obese. And this network of obesity is too great to be attributed to chance or statistical probability. Here’s the really shocking statistic: If you have an acquaintance or weak tie who becomes obese, it nearly triples your risk of becoming obese. Yes, the impact is greater if it is a strong tie—you have a 57 percent higher chance of obesity. But the risk is still high for the weak ties—20 percent higher with two degrees of separation and 10 percent higher with three degrees of separation.

This is just one example of the power of weak ties in our social networks. Our weak ties can also make us happier, wealthier, and more successful. Social economist James Montgomery studies weak ties and the role social networks play in the labor market. He found that weak ties are “positively related to higher wages and higher aggregate employment rates.”5

So yes, your weak ties may make you obese, but they may also make you wealthier and more employed.

Your weak ties, your bridges to other networks and diverse groups, are the friends who will most profoundly influence your Mindsharing and create your access to collective intelligence.

Having access to collective intelligence is a very powerful asset. Just as the president always has his expert team of advisers by his side, you too can have wise advisers within reach whenever you are faced with a problem or dilemma that is beyond your own personal knowledge or expertise. You will learn how to build and manage digital relationships, and how Mindsharing can help you advance your career, improve your personal life, and coach you through achieving almost anything you can imagine. This is not rocket science. It is a simple way to tap into the full potential of your social network. You’ve heard the saying that two brains are better than one. What about five brains, fifty brains, five thousand brains? This book will guide you through the process.


Mindsharing is a crowdsourced thinking process to solve problems, make decisions, access creativity, and create more ease and joy in our lives. Instead of thinking alone, we use social technologies to think with a big crowd. The process involves asking questions, analyzing responses, and coming to an answer based on the collective wisdom of the crowd.

You may have heard of crowdsourcing, a term coined by Jeff Howe in 2005 as an alternative to outsourcing. Think of outsourcing as the process of giving a task to a third party. For example, a company might hire an advertising agency to create a marketing strategy. Outsourcing is a popular business tactic for organizations that are trying to focus on what they do best, and choose to outsource other tasks to professionals in that given area. Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, is the process of outsourcing a task to a large group of people (a crowd) rather than a professional or a single organization.

Wikipedia is without a doubt the largest and most well-known example of crowdsourcing, and in many ways the most important crowdsourcing effort thus far. It began on the premise that anyone in the world could offer valuable content, so anyone could add or edit information on a free online encyclopedia. Wikipedia is very extensive, but is it accurate? Can an unorganized, nonexpert crowd of volunteers provide correct information to the public without any supervision or guidance? In 2005, Nature magazine conducted a study in which experts analyzed forty-two articles from Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica to see which information source was more accurate. The study showed that the crowdsourced Wikipedia is nearly as accurate as the expert-created Britannica—independent experts found 3.9 errors per article in Wikipedia versus 2.9 errors per entry in Encyclopaedia Britannica. A later 2012 study, by Oxford University, found that Wikipedia articles scored higher than Encyclopaedia Britannica in accuracy.

Is the crowd getting even smarter?

Crowdfunding is another example of crowdsourcing. Instead of seeking out a single investor to fund a project with a large amount of money, crowdfunding seeks out a large group of people to invest a small amount each. After all, aren’t a hundred investors better than one investor? What about ten million investors? Isn’t it safer not to have all our eggs in one basket?

The traditional route for start-ups in need of capital is to go to a bank or a venture capital firm and pitch their idea in the hope that the one person behind the desk will believe in it enough to invest money. With crowdfunding, entrepreneurs can take their great and not-so-great ideas (the crowd will decide) directly to a huge audience of potential investors in order to get funding. Pebble Technology, a company developing smart watches that could display updates from a wearer’s smart phone, went to Kickstarter seeking the seed money for their project. Originally, the company hoped to raise $100,000 by offering the watch at a discounted price to anyone who contributed $115 to the campaign. After only two hours postlaunch of their Kickstarter campaign, Pebble had raised the initial $100,000 they were seeking, and by the end of funding, less than forty days after going live with their project, they had well over $10 million. To date, Pebble is one of the most highly crowdfunded projects ever, with almost seventy thousand people contributing.

Both Wikipedia and Pebble are examples of organizations that are using the crowd. However, it took a big investment in time and resources to manage the crowdsourcing process. With Mindsharing, you can access the same powerful resource in your daily life and through your social networks. Instead of using your Facebook and Twitter accounts only to share your location, who you are with, what you are having for dinner, or your favorite cat video, you can use your networks in new, innovative, yet simple ways that will allow you to access the collective genius and power that resides in the brains of your friends, and in the friends of your friends, and so on across the globe. Deborah tapped into this intelligence to save her son’s life. Countless others are tapping into it to invest their money, improve their career, find the love of their life, parent their children, and make impossible-seeming dreams come true.

This is Mindsharing, and it is different from traditional crowdsourcing because it is about crowdsourced thinking, not tasks—it is crowdsourced decision making. Mindsharing allows you to go to a big crowd and ask them to think with you. It bears repeating that Mindsharing is not about going to the crowd and asking them to think for you. It is tapping into the collective intelligence and power of the crowd, and using the crowd to help you make smarter decisions.

Now, you might wonder, “Aren’t I Mindsharing every time I type a question into a search engine?” The answer is no. When you use a search engine, you are not asking people to think with you. You are using an algorithm that tries to find relevant information. In many cases, this information is from organizations that ultimately are trying to sell you something. For example, if you are trying to decide on the best place to go on vacation and you type this query into a search engine, you are going to get results from companies that are trying to get you to spend your money on whatever vacation paradise they are invested in.

With Mindsharing, however, your decision on the perfect vacation will be based on what you’ve said is valuable and relevant to you. There is no agenda with Mindsharing—you go to your crowd—and the expert advice is based on what you need, want, and value, not on what the crowd wants to sell you. Search engines are useful when looking for information or for facts and data, but they are less effective as a tool for decision making. Mindsharing isn’t outsourcing your decision making. It’s decision backup, and at its core it is all about innovation and novelty.


If you have ever switched careers, you know how important a decision it can be. This is why many of us invest so much time and effort in thinking about our career and usually seek the advice of our friends and family. Changing careers is right up there with life’s other big decisions—getting married, starting a family, moving—and it is one of those decisions that have a long-term effect on our lives. When I first worked at Microsoft, I was very passionate about the (then) new social network revolution, and I had shared this passion with my crowd over the years. But the actual decision to leave Microsoft was made privately and with the advice and counsel of my family and a few close friends.

After deciding to make this life-changing career move and pursue a PhD, I had experimented with this thing called Mindsharing and been fascinated by the results. It was still a leap, however, to rely on the crowd to help me with my own decision making around my career and specifically my PhD research. My own cognitive process and intelligence, when it came to the question of what to do next in my life, left me lacking. I was unsure. I was worried about getting it wrong. I didn’t even know what area of research to pursue for my PhD. It was then that I decided to get the advice of my crowd on Facebook and Twitter. Most of them knew what I did for a living, since I had often shared things from my professional life. So when I decided to retire from Microsoft, I wrote this status on my Facebook page:

What do you think should be my next career?

The response was overwhelming. The collective cognition of the crowd had processed all of my previous sharing about what I was passionate about in a way that I was not able to do on my own. The collective intelligence of the crowd not only ended up shaping my career, it ended up becoming my career. From a single status update, to a PhD, to consulting, to speaking engagements, to a TED talk, to this book—Mindsharing created my new career. The crowd’s advice: create a career all about Mindsharing, and this is exactly what I do. I consult to organizations all around the world from health care to media to government agencies that want to use Mindsharing to make better decisions. But what I discovered was that organizations are not the only ones that benefit from crowdsourcing.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Power of We 1

Part 1 Mindsharing for Your Career and Your Success 19

1 Finding Your Crowd (Building the New Network) 21

2 The New Network (Mindsharing Your Career) 37

3 Linking In and Linking Out (Mindsharing on Linkedln) 55

Part 2 The Art of Mindsharing 71

4 Working the Crowd (Managing Digital Relationships) 73

5 Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall (Asking the Right Questions) 85

6 Crowd Creativity (Mining the Collective Wisdom for Creative Gold) 95

7 When Good Crowds Go Bad (When and Why Mindsharing Is Not Working) 103

Part 3 Mindshare Your Personal Life 113

8 Smart Money (Using the Crowd to Mind Your Money) 115

9 Smile for the Crowd (Finding and Keeping Love with Mindsharing) 129

10 It Takes a Really Big Village (Mindsharing Your Way to Being a Better Parent) 145

11 Paging Doctor Crowd (Mindsharing Your Health) 157

Part 4 How to Mindshare Your Dreams Into Reality 175

12 I Have a Dream (The Power of Crowd Dreaming) 177

13 Sweet Dreams (Mindsharing Your Way to a Successful Life Dream) 193

14 Dream a Little Dream with Me (Crowd Coaching Dreams into Reality) 205

Conclusion: The Future of Mindsharing 221

Acknowledgments 229

Acknowledgments to My Crowd 233

Mindsharing Resources 243

Notes 247

Index 251

Customer Reviews