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Issues in Group Decision Making


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  • 1. Organizational aspects of interfirm collaboration Part 2. Issues in Group Decision Making Udine, 24/02/2011 Daniel Pittino University of Udine
  • 2. What’s the deal with group decisions? “ A camel is a horse designed by a committee” “ None of us is as smart as all of us” OR
  • 3. Are more heads better than one?
    • Group decision advantages
    • More information
    • Diversity of thought strategies or tools
    • Better creativity and problem solving
    • Incorporation of different values.
    • Accuracy in quantitative judgements – wisdom of crowds.
    • Group decision problems
    • Issues in information sharing
    • Polarization of attitudes
    • Social Loafing
    • Conformity
    • Groupthink
  • 4. Social loafing
    • Individuals working in groups may not work as hard as individuals working alone.
    • Why?
      • People perceive that others in a group are less motivated or less capable and this leads them to a reduced effort.
      • Group participants choose less ambitious individual goals because they think that the task will be easier when others are involved. lower goals, you expect less effort.
      • Individuals feel that in a group context the results can be less linked to the individual effort
  • 5. Possible solution to social loafing problems
    • Keep groups as small as possible (4-6 members)
    • Create a structure where individual contributions are observable, measurable, and reported
    • Differentiate the roles, set clear roles for each member and define how their performance will be evaluated
    • Plan individual sanctions for unsatisfactory individual performance.
  • 6. Conformity
    • Conformity is the degree to which members of a group will change their views and attitudes to fit the views of the group
    • The group can influence members via unconscious processes or via overt social pressure on individuals
  • 7. The Solomon Asch 1951 experiment
    • To what extent pressure from other people can affect one's perceptions
    • He told the subjects (groups of students) he was studying visual perception
    • The task was to decide which of the bars on the right was the same length as the one on the left
  • 8. The procedure
    • Asch asked the students to give their answers aloud
    • He repeated the procedure with 18 sets of bars
    • Only one student in each group was a real subject; all the others have been instructed to give incorrect answers on 12 of the 18 trials
    • Asch arranged for the real subject to be the next-to-the-last person in each group to announce his answer so that he would hear most of the confederates incorrect responses before giving his own
  • 9. The findings
    • 37 of the 50 subjects conformed to the majority at least once
    • 14 of them conformed on more than 6 of the 12 trials
    • The mean subject conformed on 4 of the 12 trials
  • 10. Two types of conformity
    • Informative conformity occurs in uncertain and ambiguous situations. In unfamiliar situations, we are likely to shape our behavior to match that of others. Others inform us how to behave in new situations.
    • Normative conformity , occurs when our concern is to make good impression in front of a group. We may disagree secretly with the group opinion, but we may verbally adopt the group stance so that we do not appear as a deviant.
  • 11. Examples: Conformity and organizational failure
    • Four - year delay in the recall of the drug Vioxx by Merck (2004), despite evidence from a variety of sources that use of Vioxx was dangerous for patients
    • Organizational commitment to the illegal conduct of Enron Corporation (2001). When warning signals about questionable methods began to appear, board members were not worried because they saw these practices as part of the way of doing business at Enron
  • 12. Groupthink
    • Cohesion often is a key to group success
      • Strong commitment to the group
      • Strong affiliation with group members
      • Helps creating motivation towards the goals
    • … but is high cohesion always good?
      • It may interfere with effective decision making processes
      • It may lead to override the critical evaluation of options
      • it may contribute to bad decisions
    • Too much cohesion may lead to groupthink (Janis 1972)
    • “ A mode of thinking of people when they are deeply involved in a cohesive group…. The members’ striving for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of actions.”
  • 13. Factors leading to groupthink
    • Structural factors
    • The group is insulated from outside influences
    • Members mostly homogeneous (similar)
    • There are no procedural norms for decision making
    • Dominated by a respected/credible leader
    • Contingent factors
    • Group members under high stress
    • Low group self-esteem
  • 14. Symptoms of groupthink
    • Overestimation of group
      • Illusion of group’s invulnerability
      • Belief in group’s inherent morality
    • Closedmindedness
      • Out-group stereotypes – denigrate others
      • Collective rationalization
    • Pressures toward uniformity
      • Self-censorship and pressure on dissenters to avoid disrupting group
      • Illusion of unanimity/agreement
  • 15. Consequences of groupthink on decision making
    • Group limits its discussion to only a few alternatives.
    • The solution initially favoured by most members is never reconsidered to seek out pitfalls.
    • Alternatives not initially favoured are never re-examined.
    • Outside opinion is not sought. Group is highly selective in gathering information.
    • Group is highly confident in its ideas and does not plan for contingencies.
  • 16. Examples of groupthink situations
    • British Petroleum Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (2010). The company did not consider adequately the risk of an accident and did not develop any contingency plan to quickly address an emergency
    • Space Shuttle Challenger explosion (1986). The team decision of launch was taken despite several previous concerns about safety expressed by the engineers; and followed a self censorship by dissenting people
  • 17. Possible solutions to groupthink problems
    • Appoint and encourage a devil’s advocate
    • Leader should not early on state preference
    • Divide into sub groups to each examine issue
    • Bring in outsiders – discuss with outsiders
    • Collect anonymous ideas.