Why are group decisions often flawed?

May 5, 2017 1:55:20 PM / by Joe Kay

Effective teamwork and decision making seldom happens by accident - traditionally, elite teamwork has been the preserve of highly resourced organisations, such as the military.

At Enswarm our mission is to democratise great teamwork, by making available to all teams, simple digital tools that provide the framework and the means to work together effectively, regardless of individual status or the geographic location of team members, to make more effective and better informed decisions.

Enswarm’s SwarmTools remove human bias, value the contributions of all team members and align personal objectives with common goals. SwarmTools delivers better team performance and create competitive advantage for their users.

Contrast this with the way most organisations make decisions, using unstructured meetings and processes that are prone to human frailties such as hierarchy, office politics, cognitive and personal bias and group-think.

Hierarchy

Hierarchy can have a significant effect on the quality and effectiveness of decision making in any organisation.  Leaders and senior members of a group can consciously or unconsciously use their status to sway decisions, rather than allowing full group participation, or broader contributions to prevail.  

Office Politics

Office politics entails the use of power and social networking within an organisation, to achieve outcomes that benefit individual agendas, often at the expense of the organisation. Individuals and groups are prone to engaging in office politics, which can be highly disruptive and particularly so with regards to effective decision-making and teamwork. Self-serving political agendas can negatively influence social groupings, undermine co-operation, distort the dissemination of information and generally undermine the functioning of an organisation.

Cognitive Bias

Human cognitive bias refers to the human tendency to think and make decisions in ways that lead to systematic deviations from rationality and good judgment – the phenomenon is widely studied in psychology and behavioural economics.

Although the reality of these biases has been extensively confirmed by research, there are varying opinions on how to classify or explain them. Some are caused by information-processing rules (mental shortcuts) called heuristics, that the brain uses to form judgments or reach decisions or. But bias in judgment or decision-making, can also result from motivations, such as when beliefs are distorted by wishful thinking. And some biases have a variety of cognitive (“cold”) or motivational (“hot”) explanations. Both effects can be present at the same time.

Personal Bias

At the individual level, important decisions may be viewed through a person’s personal lens rather than with a view to the overall benefit to the team or the organisation. Decisions can then be skewed to favour or result in individually focused incentives or other non-team motivations.

Group-think

Group-think is the psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, when the desire for harmony or conformity within the group results in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making. Group-think causes teams to try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decisions without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, and often extends to actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints and isolation from outside influences.

 

SwarmTools mean great teamwork and decision-making need no longer be the preserve of elite teams…  

Joe Kay

Written by Joe Kay