Last week saw the premiere of NBC's 1 vs. 100, where one brainy contestant is pitted against a brain pool of 100 ordinary people. Like most primetime game shows, this Bob Saget-hosted show originated overseas. This time it's Holland's handiwork.

The premise of the Friday night show is simple. A trivia question is asked. If the solitary player gets it right, we see how the collective fared. Those who respond incorrectly are eliminated. The cash prize goes up as more members of the original 100 are removed. Round by round, the stakes get higher. If the single player is able to outlast the community, he or she gets it all. If not, the collective splits the pot. Last week's debut resonated with viewers, drawing an audience 12.8 million strong.

The producers promise to fill "the mob" with an eclectic collection of savants, grandmothers, and game show winners, but even if it was just a pool of grade school kids, my money would be riding on the 100.

The wisdom of mob rule
James Surowiecki, who worked with me on some of the earliest editorial features here at in the mid-1990s -- like Dueling Fools and Daily Double -- has a hit book on his hands. The Wisdom of Crowds has become a top-selling business book, and it poses the theory that you can glean knowledge from the masses, especially enlightened masses.

That's the premise of our new Motley Fool CAPS stock rating service, where the power of community creates greater market intelligence.

Surowiecki's book serves up WhoWants to Be a Millionaire? as an example. Smart contestants would often stumble. They would turn to the collective audience or call up a friend as a lifeline to double up the brainpower. The show "pitted group intelligence against individual intelligence," Surowiecki writes, "and every week, group intelligence won."

CAPS is also banking on the power of forward-thinking individual investors to congregate and produce superior results over any individual money manager, institutional investor, or talking head guru on CNBC.

Following the crowds
Siding with the masses is often ridiculed. You don't want to be a lemming; you don't want to follow the herd. However, as an investor, you can definitely profit from watching where the crowds go.

Anyone who tells you that the iPod is a passing craze hasn't stopped to analyze the magnitude of Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) moving 60 million of those suckers in just five years on the market. Anyone who believes that XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR) and Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI) are doomed might want to take that up with the 14 million subscribers they will combine to watch over by the end of the year.

If we follow the crowd the other way, we can also foresee the damage of defections. TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) is doing a lot of cool things -- I wouldn't be a shareholder if it wasn't -- yet its stock hasn't been able to recover since DirecTV (NYSE:DTV) began trying to migrate its satellite dish subscribers that make up TiVo's largest audience to its own DVR boxes. How hard has it been for Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) America Online since the quarterly membership defections began taking place four years ago?

An interactive experience like CAPS may help you tap into emerging investing trends and avoid those on the way out. In its simplest form, it's just one more tool to inspire promising stock ideas. At its best, it's a way to profit from the power of the masses.

Even though as investors we often feel like the single player -- up against "the mob" out there that is looking to profit at your mortal expense -- it doesn't have to be that way. You can lean on the collective to come out the ultimate winner.

Borrow from the 100. Be the 1.

Motley Fool CAPS is a new community-driven experience where individual investors pool their knowledge to seek out superior stock ideas. Are you up for the challenge? Go ahead and give it a shot .

TiVo and Time Warner are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. You can check out the newsletter's free special report now. XM Satellite Radio is a Rule Breakers newsletter selection.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has never been on a game show, though he thinks it would be cool if the 1 vs. 100 producers would approach The Motley Fool to match up one contestant against a hundred jester cap-donning Fools from for an upcoming show. He does own shares in TiVo. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has adisclosure policy.