Group Decisions: What Works and What Doesn’t

Group decision-making has its advantages and disadvantages; but knowing this, the disadvantages can be dealt with and the strategies of group decision-making can be adjusted so that they can be more beneficial. One such disadvantage is groupthink, when there is pressure put on some members of the group to agree with other members’ ideas which limits discussion and consideration of a larger set of ideas. One way that this can be avoided is to get someone from another department who knows little of the decisions needing to be made to stand in and referee. They can look out for those in the group who are more outspoken in a pushy and insistent way, and point out that they have been heard and ask them to listen to those who have yet had the opportunity to share their thoughts. Also, this individual can be the leader so that all other group members involved in the decision-making are equal and do not have the superiority to influence any one particular idea.

Another problem with potential groupthink is that sometimes there is not a specific guideline set up for going through the decision-making process. If this has been a problem in the past, or just knowing this could slow or hinder the outcome of the process, a step by step method of accomplishing the end goal can be put together before bringing the task before the group. Providing clear instructions on who is to do what and the order in which it should be completed can take the guess-work out for those who feel intimidated by the mission and will also ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate. If the clarity is precise, it could also tone down those who tend to be overbearing.

Brainstorming is a very effective way of generating a mass of ideas. I have personally used brainstorming in many forms. I have been in a group where we all brainstormed together as a group, taking turns spitting out our ideas, while someone mapped them out on a dry erase board. There were a decent amount of ideas generated, but it was chaotic and there was clearly some who had many ideas and shouted the loudest while others looked like they wanted to say something, but continuously second guessed their own idea and chose to keep quiet. I didn’t feel this was as affective as other brainstorming methods. I can see now that there were definitely signs of groupthink that occurred during this group’s activities.

I have also been in several brainstorming groups where there was a clear plan on how the events would unfold and steps taken to ensure that everyone had a chance to share equally. We were first split into smaller groups, were given a certain amount of time, and then each group generated their own map of ideas. When time was up, one group started, having chosen one member to speak for the group, and one by one they shared their group’s ideas. When it was the next group’s turn, they were only to share the ideas that they had that were different from those already written from the previous group. After the final group, we had everyone’s ideas up without the chaos or intimidation, and we had succeeded in eliminating duplicate ideas.

And finally, I have recently participated in an online brainstorming program for a class. Other than the fact that I am still in the early stages of learning how to use a computer and getting familiar with programs and software, I found that if you have never used this method, it can be very frustrating and can distract from the actual act of brainstorming and recording those ideas. However, there seems to be a lot of things that the software can do, such as setting up different methods, recording and prioritizing ideas, combining each individual’s ideas into one final brainstorming map, and then many options to break these ideas down further, and allow everyone to add input about ideas into the system, allow others to evaluate this input, and finally the information can be limited down to the best idea. Overall, group decision-making can combine a larger resource for ideas to come out of, along with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideas to get a wider range of ideas to pull from.


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