You will no doubt have heard of the “wisdom of crowds” in which individuals in a crowd are privately asked to give an answer to a question, such as how many jelly beans are in a jar and that when the answers are averaged together, the answer given by the crowd is generally better than for any given individual.
Well, this paper
Aggregated knowledge from a small number of debates outperforms the wisdom of large crowds
explores alternative methods and suggests an improved process.
By dividing the crowd into small groups of five, and having the five small groups discuss the question come to a consensus, that is then averaged produces better results than the average produced by the large crowd.
To my mind, the research lends support to the idea that the Knowledge Café can make an effective collective sensemaking tool, though there is clearly a big divide between estimating the number of jelly beans in a jar and coming up with an effective response to a complex business or social problem.