9.4 Group Decision-making

Let’s Focus

Group Decision Making

When It Comes to Decision Making, Are Two Heads Better Than One?

The answer to this question depends on several factors. Group decision making has the advantage of drawing from the experiences and perspectives of a larger number of individuals. Hence, a group may have the potential to be more creative and lead to more effective decisions. In fact, groups may sometimes achieve results beyond what they could have done as individuals. Groups may also make the task more enjoyable for the members. Finally, when the decision is made by a group rather than a single individual, implementation of the decision will be easier, because group members will be more invested in the decision. If the group is diverse, better decisions may be made, because different group members may have different ideas based on their backgrounds and experiences. Research shows that for top management teams, diverse groups that debate issues make decisions that are more comprehensive and better for the bottom line (Simons et al., 1999).

Despite its popularity within organizations, group decision making suffers from a number of disadvantages. We know that groups rarely outperform their best member (Miner, 1984) .While groups have the potential to arrive at an effective decision, they often suffer from process losses. For example, groups may suffer from coordination problems. Anyone who has worked with a team of individuals on a project can attest to the difficulty of coordinating members’ work or even coordinating everyone’s presence in a team meeting. Furthermore, groups can suffer from groupthink. Finally, group decision making takes more time compared to individual decision making, because all members need to discuss their thoughts regarding different alternatives.

Thus, whether an individual or a group decision is preferable will depend on the specifics of the situation. For example, if there is an emergency and a decision needs to be made quickly, individual decision making might be preferred. Individual decision making may also be appropriate if the individual in question has all the information needed to make the decision and if implementation problems are not expected. On the other hand, if one person does not have all the information and skills needed to make a decision, if implementing the decision will be difficult without the involvement of those who will be affected by the decision, and if time urgency is more modest, then decision making by a group may be more effective.


Earlier in the chapter we learned about group cohesiveness and the concept of groupthink. In this section, we will explore characteristics and consequences of groupthink.

Have you ever been in a decision-making group that you felt was heading in the wrong direction but you didn’t speak up and say so? If so, you have already been a victim of groupthink. Iriving Janis (1972), author of a book called Victims of Groupthink, explained that groupthink is characterized by eight symptoms:

  1. Illusion of invulnerability is shared by most or all of the group members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages them to take extreme risks.
  2. Collective rationalizations occur, in which members downplay negative information or warnings that might cause them to reconsider their assumptions.
  3. An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality occurs, which may incline members to ignore ethical or moral consequences of their actions.
  4. Stereotyped views of outgroups are seen when groups discount rivals’ abilities to make effective responses.
  5. Direct pressure is exerted on any members who express strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments.
  6. Self-censorship occurs when members of the group minimize their own doubts and counterarguments.
  7. Illusions of unanimity occur, based on self-censorship and direct pressure on the group. The lack of dissent is viewed as unanimity.
  8. The emergence of self-appointed mindguards happens when one or more members protect the group from information that runs counter to the group’s assumptions and course of action.

Let’s Focus 

Recommendations for Avoiding Groupthink

Here are some recommendations for groups, individuals, and leaders to help minimize the risk of groupthink.

Groups should do the following:

  • Discuss the symptoms of groupthink and how to avoid them.
  • Assign a rotating devil’s advocate to every meeting.
  • Invite experts or qualified colleagues who are not part of the core decision-making group to attend meetings and get reactions from outsiders on a regular basis and share these with the group.
  • Encourage a culture of difference where different ideas are valued.
  • Debate the ethical implications of the decisions and potential solutions being considered.

Individuals should do the following:

  • Monitor personal behavior for signs of groupthink and modify behavior if needed.
  • Check for self-censorship.
  • Carefully avoid mindguard behaviors.
  • Avoid putting pressure on other group members to conform.
  • Remind members of the ground rules for avoiding groupthink if they get off track.

Group leaders should do the following:

  • Break the group into two subgroups from time to time.
  • Have more than one group work on the same problem if time and resources allow it. This makes sense for highly critical decisions.
  • Remain impartial and refrain from stating preferences at the outset of decisions.
  • Set a tone of encouraging critical evaluations throughout deliberations.
  • Create an anonymous feedback channel through which all group members can contribute if desired.

Adapted and expanded from: Janis(1972); and Whyte (1991).

Let’s Review

  • There are trade-offs between making decisions alone and within a group.
  • Groups have a greater diversity of experiences and ideas than individuals, but they also have potential process losses such as groupthink.
  • Groupthink can be avoided by recognizing the eight symptoms discussed.


  1. Do you prefer to make decisions in a group or alone? What are the main reasons for your preference?
  2. Have you been in a group that used the brainstorming technique? Was it an effective tool for coming up with creative ideas? Please share examples.
  3. Have you been in a group that experienced groupthink? If so, how did you deal with it?
  4. Which of the decision-making tools discussed in this chapter (NGT, Delphi, and so on) have you used? How effective were they?


This section is adapted from:

Chapter 8: Make Good Decisions in Human Relations by Saylor Academy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License

Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of groupthink. Houghton Mifflin.

Miner, F. C. (1984). Group versus individual decision making: An investigation of performance measures, decision strategies, and process losses/gains. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance33, 112–24.

Simons, T., Pelled, L. H., & Smith, K. A. (1999). Making use of difference: Diversity, debate, decision comprehensiveness in top management teams. Academy of Management Journal42, 662–73.

Whyte, G. (1991). Decision failures: Why they occur and how to prevent them. Academy of Management Executive5, 23–31.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Psychology, Communication, and the Canadian Workplace Copyright © 2022 by Laura Westmaas, BA, MSc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book