Why group decisions are often flawed?

July 9, 2015

In most situations organisations make decisions using unstructured decision meetings.

These meetings are subject to various problems including:

Hierarchy

The hierarchy in a group can have a significant effect on decisions.  Leaders and other senior members of the group can consciously or unconsciously sway decisions based on their position in the group rather than the quality of their argument.  At Enswarm, we believe that high ranking people should be able back up their opinion with solid reasons.

Office Politics

Office politics is the use of power and social networking within an organisation to achieve outcomes that benefit people other than the organisation itself. Both individuals and groups may engage in office politics, which can be highly destructive, particularly with regard to decision-making. Self-serving political actions can negatively influence our social groupings, co-operation, information sharing, and many other organisational functions.

Human Cognitive Biases

Human cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment, and are often studied in psychology and behavioral economics.

Although the reality of these biases is confirmed by replicable research, there are different opinions on how to classify or explain them. Some are effects of information-processing rules (i.e. mental shortcuts), called heuristics, that the brain uses to produce decisions or judgments. Biases in judgment or decision-making can also result from motivations, such as when beliefs are distorted by wishful thinking.

Some biases have a variety of cognitive (“cold”) or motivational (“hot”) explanations. Both effects can be present at the same time.hierarchy

Personal Biases

Important decisions can be viewed through a person’s own individual lens rather than that of the organisation. Decisions can be skewed by individually focused incentive schemes or other motivations.

Group-think

Group-think is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.