Group decision making (also known as collaborative decision making) is when individuals collectively make a choice from the alternatives before them. Such decisions are not attributable to any single individual, but to the group as a whole. By definition, group decisions are participatory, and often a member's contribution is directly proportional to the degree to which a particular decision would affect him or her. Group decisions are subject to factors such as social influence, including peer pressure, and group dynamics. These social elements can affect the process by which decisions are reached and the decision outcomes themselves. A group can make decisions by consensus, in which all members come to agreement, or it may take a majority-rules approach and select the alternative favored by most members.
Advantages of Group Decision Making
Group decision making provides two advantages over decisions made by individuals: synergy and sharing of information. Synergy is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When a group makes a decision collectively, its judgment can be keener than that of any of its members. Through discussion, questioning, and collaboration, group members can identify more complete and robust solutions and recommendations.
The sharing of information among group members is another advantage of the group decision-making process. Group decisions take into account a broader scope of information since each group member may contribute unique information and expertise. Sharing information can increase understanding, clarify issues, and facilitate movement toward a collective decision.
Disadvantages of Group Decision Making
Diffusion of Responsibility
One possible disadvantage of group decision making is that it can create a diffusion of responsibility that results in a lack of accountability for outcomes. In a sense, if everyone is responsible for a decision, then no one is. Moreover, group decisions can make it easier for members to deny personal responsibility and blame others for bad decisions.
Group decisions can also be less efficient than those made by an individual. Group decisions can take additional time because there is the requirement of participation, discussion, and coordination among group members. Without good facilitation and structure, meetings can get bogged down in trivial details that may matter a lot to one person but not to the others.
One of the greatest inhibitors of effective group decision making is groupthink. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. By isolating themselves from outside influences and actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints in the interest of minimizing conflict, group members reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints.
Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is a loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the in-group produces an illusion of invulnerability (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the in-group significantly overrates its own decision-making abilities and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the out-group). Furthermore, groupthink can produce dehumanizing actions against the out-group.