The Smart Swarm Teaches Us About Nature’s Crowdsourcers

These days, it’s hard to avoid talk of “the wisdom of the crowds” or how to engage mass amounts of people with marketing. So can we predict the behavior of humans by studying nature? Peter Miller says yes in The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done.
Miller is a editor for National Geographic, and it shows in his writing. He takes a look at how companies like Best Buy and Boeing have implemented and refined business processes and ideas by looking at the behavior of honeybees, termites, ants, birds and even locusts. These animals communicate in their own sophisticated ways, building communities and adapting to their environments. And companies are studying them, often using computer modeling programs to predict the plausibility of ideas and the intricacies of group behavior.
It’s less of a marketing book than an anthropological one, so unlike a lot of books I’ve read lately, there aren’t any of checklists, summaries, and things marketers could do instantly to learn from nature. You have to plod through the book to figure out how you can apply lessons for yourself. I think The Smart Swarm would make a fascinating documentary, taking the same material, meeting the people who learned from nature, and bringing it all to life. However, if you’re willing to dig through the book, there’s a lot to learn here about organizations, systems and ideas, and how planning can bring about mass success–or help avoid a crowdsourced disaster.
Special thanks for FSB Associates who provided me with a review copy.



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.