Do Groups Make Better Decisions than Individuals?

Group projects are everywhere–whether you’re at school, at work, or even in your household. It’s customary to listen to each member of the group, and what he/she has to say about a strategy for approaching the project, or ways to improve the process in the future. Often,MTR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg the ideas are compounded and morphed into a strategy that the group can agree on, but does that mean someone would choose not to offer an idea if it’s a different perspective than the “norm”?

A recent study in Management Teaching Review focuses on group decision making and how groups are more likely to accept a decision as “the best” when group members conform to social norms. Authors C. Melissa Fender and Lisa T. Stickney present the data for us in their article, “When Two Heads Aren’t Better Than One: Conformity in a Group Activity.” The article is currently free to read for a limited time; click here to view the full text.
The abstract for the article is below:

Group and team class decision-making activities often focus on demonstrating that “two heads are better than one.” Typically, students solve a problem or complete an assessment individually, then in a group. Generally, the group does better and that is what the students learn. However, if that is all such an activity conveys, then a significant teachable moment has been missed. It is often the case that a group member has one or more correct answers that the group did not use, or perhaps even outscores the group. The simple activity described here provides an opportunity to discuss a number of reasons that can cause such conformity to happen, integrating several areas of human psychology and behavior, and then segue into techniques to prevent it.

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