Groupthink applies to situation in which a group’s ability to apprise alternatives objectively and arrive at a quality decision at a quality is jeopardized. Because of pressure for conformity, groups often deter individuals from critically praising unusual, minority or unpopular views. Consequently, an individual’s mental efficiency reality testing and moral judgment deteriorate. How does groupthink occur? The following are examples of situations in which groupthink is evident.

1) Group members rationalize any resistance to the assumptions they have made
2) Members apply direct pressures on those who momentarily express about any of the group’s shared views or who question the validity of arguments favored by the majority.
3) Those members who have doubts or hold differing points of view seek to avoid deviating from what appears to be group consensus.
4) An illusion of unanimity is pervasive. If someone does not speak, it is assumed that he or she is in full accord.

Does groupthink really hinder decision making? Yes, several research studies have found that groupthink symptoms were associated with poorer quality decision outcomes. But groupthink can be minimized if the group is cohesive fosters open discussion, and has an impartial leader who seeks input from all members.

When are groups most effective?

Whether groups are more effective than individuals depends on the criteria you use for defining effectiveness, such as accuracy, speed, creativity and acceptance. Group decisions tend to be more accurate. On average groups tend to make better decisions than individuals although groupthink may occur. However, if decision effectiveness is defined in terms of speed, individuals are superior. If creativity is important groups tens to be more effective than individuals. And if effectiveness means the degree of acceptance the final solution achieves, the nod again goes to the group.

The effectiveness of group decision making is also influenced by the size of the group. The larger the group, the greater is the opportunity for heterogeneous representation. On the other hand, a larger group requires more coordination and more time to allow all members to contribute. This factors means that groups probably should not be too large: A minimum of five to a maximum of about fifteen members is best. Groups of five to seven individuals appear to be the mot effective. Because five and seven re odd numbers, strict deadlocks are avoided. Effectiveness should not be considered without also assessing efficiency. Groups almost always stack up as a poor second in efficiency to the individual decision maker. With few exceptions, group decision making consumes more work hours than does individual decision, making. In deciding whether to use groups, then primary consideration must be given to assessing whether increases in effectiveness are more than enough to offset the losses in efficiency.

How can you improve group decision making?

What is brainstorming?

Brainstorming: An idea generating process that encourages alternatives while withholding criticism.

Brainstorming is a relatively simple technique for overcoming the pressures for conformity that retard the development of creative alternatives. It utilizes an idea generating process that specifically process that specifically encourages any and all alternatives while with holding any criticism of those alternatives. In a typical brainstorming session, a half dozen to a dozen people sit around a table. Of course technology is changing where that table is. The group leader states that problem in clear manner that is understood by all participants. Members then freewheels many alternatives in a given time. No criticism is allowed and all the alternatives are recorded for later discussion and analysis. Brainstorming however, is merely a process for generating ideas.

Nominal group technique:

A decision making technique in which group members are physically present but operate independently

How does the nominal group technique work? The nominal group technique restricts discussion during the decision making process, hence the term. Group members must be present, as in a traditional committee meting but they are required to operate independently. They secretly write a list of general problem areas or potential solutions to a problem. The chief advantage of this technique is that it permits the group to meet formally but does not restrict independent thinking as so often happens in the traditional interacting group.