Group Decision Making

Group Decision Making is a collaborative process where teams collectively make decisions. It involves characteristics influenced by group dynamics, various types of decision-making methods, a structured process with information sharing, benefits of diverse perspectives, challenges such as conflict resolution, and implications on decision quality. Examples span business meetings, government committees, and community organizations, showcasing its versatility.

Introduction to Group Decision Making

Group decision making refers to the process of making choices or reaching decisions when multiple individuals are involved in the deliberation and evaluation of options. This collaborative approach to decision making is prevalent in various settings, including:

  • Business: Teams of employees or managers may convene to make strategic decisions, select projects, or resolve operational issues.
  • Government: Legislative bodies, committees, and government agencies often engage in group decision making when crafting laws, policies, and regulations.
  • Social Settings: Groups of friends or family members may make decisions about leisure activities, travel plans, or shared expenses.
  • Nonprofits: Boards of directors and committees within nonprofit organizations engage in group decision making to set objectives, allocate resources, and pursue charitable missions.

Key principles of group decision making include:

  1. Collective Input: Group decision making involves gathering input and perspectives from multiple individuals, each contributing their insights, knowledge, and preferences.
  2. Conflict Resolution: Conflicting viewpoints and interests may arise within a group. Effective group decision making involves addressing and resolving these conflicts constructively.
  3. Consensus or Majority: Groups may aim to reach decisions through consensus, where everyone agrees, or by a majority vote, where the option with the most support prevails.
  4. Shared Responsibility: Members of the group share responsibility for the outcomes of the decision, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability.

Benefits of Group Decision Making

Group decision making offers several advantages that can lead to better outcomes and decisions:

  1. Diverse Perspectives: Groups bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and expertise. This diversity can lead to more comprehensive and innovative solutions to problems.
  2. Enhanced Creativity: Group brainstorming and idea generation sessions often lead to creative solutions that may not have been considered by individuals working alone.
  3. Improved Decision Quality: The collective wisdom of a group can result in better decision quality as members challenge each other’s assumptions and provide critical feedback.
  4. Increased Commitment: When individuals have a say in the decision-making process, they are more likely to be committed to implementing the chosen course of action.
  5. Shared Responsibility: Group decisions distribute responsibility among members, reducing the burden on any single individual and promoting a sense of joint ownership.

Challenges of Group Decision Making

While group decision making offers numerous benefits, it also presents several challenges that can hinder the effectiveness of the process:

  1. Conflict and Disagreement: Differences in opinions, values, and interests can lead to conflicts within the group, making it challenging to reach a consensus.
  2. Groupthink: Groupthink is a phenomenon where group members prioritize consensus and harmony over critical evaluation of ideas, leading to poor decision outcomes.
  3. Dominance of Voices: Some group members may dominate discussions, while others remain silent. This can lead to the exclusion of valuable perspectives.
  4. Time-Consuming: Group decision making often takes more time than individual decision making due to the need for discussion, debate, and consensus-building.
  5. Compromise: In reaching a consensus, groups may opt for compromises that do not fully align with the best interests of all members or the organization.

Models of Group Decision Making

Several models and approaches are commonly used to facilitate group decision making. These models vary in complexity and the level of formality involved. Here are a few notable models:

  1. Majority Vote: In this simple model, decisions are made by a majority vote. The option with the most votes is selected. This approach is efficient but may not consider minority viewpoints.
  2. Consensus Decision Making: The consensus model aims to achieve unanimous agreement within the group. Members continue to discuss and modify the proposal until all can support it. While it fosters inclusivity, it can be time-consuming.
  3. Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA): MCDA involves evaluating options based on multiple criteria or factors. Weightings are assigned to each criterion, and a mathematical model is used to rank the options. This approach provides a systematic way to make complex decisions.
  4. Delphi Method: The Delphi method is an iterative process where experts provide input on a topic anonymously. The facilitator aggregates the responses and presents them to the group for further input. This process continues until a consensus or convergence is reached.
  5. Nominal Group Technique (NGT): NGT is a structured approach to group decision making. Participants generate and prioritize ideas independently and then discuss and vote on them collectively. It combines both individual and group input.

Real-World Applications of Group Decision Making

Group decision making is a ubiquitous process with numerous real-world applications across various domains:

  1. Business Strategy: Corporate boards, executive teams, and cross-functional working groups engage in group decision making to formulate business strategies, allocate resources, and set organizational priorities.
  2. Policy Development: Government bodies, legislative committees, and public forums rely on group decision making to develop laws, regulations, and policies that impact society.
  3. Project Selection: Project management teams use group decision making to select and prioritize projects based on factors such as feasibility, ROI, and strategic alignment.
  4. Product Development: Product development teams employ group decision making to design new products, select features, and make trade-offs between design elements.
  5. Healthcare: Medical teams and interdisciplinary groups use group decision making to determine treatment plans, diagnose complex cases, and allocate resources in healthcare settings.
  6. Environmental Planning: Environmental agencies and conservation organizations engage in group decision making to address issues related to land use, resource management, and conservation efforts.

Significance of Group Decision Making

Group decision making holds significant importance in various aspects of modern society:

  1. Democracy: In democratic societies, group decision making is the foundation of governance, allowing citizens to participate in the decision-making process through elections and policy development.
  2. Inclusivity: Group decision making promotes inclusivity by involving diverse perspectives and ensuring that the interests of various stakeholders are considered.
  3. Quality Assurance: In organizations, group decision making helps ensure the quality and comprehensiveness of decisions by drawing on the expertise and knowledge of multiple individuals.
  4. Conflict Resolution: Group decision making provides a structured platform for addressing conflicts, reaching compromises, and finding solutions that satisfy the interests of conflicting parties.
  5. Collective Wisdom: Groups can harness collective wisdom, creativity, and problem-solving abilities, leading to innovative solutions and more informed choices.
  6. Ownership and Accountability: Group decisions often result in a sense of shared ownership and accountability, as members are collectively responsible for the outcomes.


Group decision making is a complex but essential process that shapes outcomes in various domains of human activity. While it offers numerous benefits, such as diverse perspectives and enhanced decision quality, it also presents challenges, including conflict and the risk of groupthink. Understanding the principles, models, and applications of group decision making is crucial for individuals, organizations, and societies seeking to make informed and effective choices in an increasingly interconnected world.

Case Studies

  • Corporate Board Meeting: A company’s board of directors convenes to make decisions about financial strategies, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance.
  • Project Team Meeting: A project team collaborates to decide on project timelines, resource allocation, and problem-solving strategies to meet project goals.
  • City Council Meeting: Elected city council members gather to make decisions about local ordinances, budgets, and public policies that affect the community.
  • Nonprofit Organization Board: Members of a nonprofit organization’s board come together to decide on fundraising campaigns, program initiatives, and outreach strategies.
  • Academic Committee: Faculty members in a university committee decide on curriculum changes, academic policies, and research funding allocation.
  • Medical Team Conference: A team of healthcare professionals discusses treatment options for a patient, considering inputs from doctors, nurses, and specialists.
  • Investment Committee: A group of investors meets to make decisions about investment portfolios, asset allocation, and market strategies.
  • Environmental Task Force: A task force comprised of environmental experts and policymakers decides on conservation efforts, environmental regulations, and sustainability initiatives.
  • Homeowners’ Association Meeting: Homeowners in a residential community gather to make decisions about neighborhood rules, maintenance, and landscaping projects.
  • United Nations Assembly: Representatives from various nations collaborate to make global decisions on issues such as peacekeeping, climate change, and humanitarian aid.
  • Product Development Team: Engineers, designers, and marketers work together to decide on product features, design elements, and launch strategies.
  • Jury Deliberation: Jurors in a courtroom collectively decide on the guilt or innocence of a defendant based on evidence and deliberation.
  • Sports Team Strategy Meeting: Coaches and players come together to decide on game strategies, player positions, and tactics for an upcoming match.
  • Emergency Response Team: A team of first responders and officials collaborates to make critical decisions during disaster response and recovery efforts.
  • Community Council: Members of a neighborhood council discuss and decide on community improvement projects, events, and safety measures.

Key Highlights

  • Collective Wisdom: Group decision making leverages the diverse knowledge, skills, and experiences of multiple individuals, leading to more comprehensive problem-solving and decision outcomes.
  • Shared Responsibility: Group decisions distribute accountability among members, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to the chosen course of action.
  • Conflict Resolution: Group discussions allow for the exploration of different viewpoints and the resolution of conflicts through open dialogue and negotiation.
  • Innovation: Groups can generate innovative ideas and creative solutions that may not have been evident through individual decision-making processes.
  • Risk Mitigation: Group decision making helps identify and assess potential risks and uncertainties, allowing for risk mitigation strategies to be put in place.
  • Enhanced Communication: Collaborative decision making promotes effective communication, information sharing, and a better understanding of complex issues.
  • Consensus Building: Groups strive to reach a consensus, which can lead to decisions that are more widely accepted and supported by members.
  • Efficiency: In certain situations, group decision making can be more efficient, especially when tasks require multiple perspectives and expertise.
  • Democratic Participation: Group decisions often align with democratic principles, allowing members to have a voice in the decision-making process.
  • Implementation Success: Group decisions tend to have higher success rates in implementation because of the buy-in and commitment of members.
  • Accountability: In transparent group settings, it is easier to track and attribute decisions to specific individuals or roles within the group.
  • Learning Opportunities: Group decision making provides opportunities for members to learn from one another and develop interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Groups can establish feedback loops to monitor the outcomes of decisions and make adjustments when necessary.
  • Crisis Management: In crisis situations, group decision making can lead to faster and more effective responses by pooling resources and expertise.
  • Ethical Considerations: Group discussions allow for ethical considerations and moral values to be integrated into decision-making processes.

Connected Thinking Frameworks

Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking

Convergent thinking occurs when the solution to a problem can be found by applying established rules and logical reasoning. Whereas divergent thinking is an unstructured problem-solving method where participants are encouraged to develop many innovative ideas or solutions to a given problem. Where convergent thinking might work for larger, mature organizations where divergent thinking is more suited for startups and innovative companies.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing observations, facts, evidence, and arguments to form a judgment about what someone reads, hears, says, or writes.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Lindy Effect

The Lindy Effect is a theory about the ageing of non-perishable things, like technology or ideas. Popularized by author Nicholas Nassim Taleb, the Lindy Effect states that non-perishable things like technology age – linearly – in reverse. Therefore, the older an idea or a technology, the same will be its life expectancy.


Antifragility was first coined as a term by author, and options trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Antifragility is a characteristic of systems that thrive as a result of stressors, volatility, and randomness. Therefore, Antifragile is the opposite of fragile. Where a fragile thing breaks up to volatility; a robust thing resists volatility. An antifragile thing gets stronger from volatility (provided the level of stressors and randomness doesn’t pass a certain threshold).

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic means of investigating the factors and interactions that could contribute to a potential outcome. It is about thinking non-linearly, and understanding the second-order consequences of actions and input into the system.

Vertical Thinking

Vertical thinking, on the other hand, is a problem-solving approach that favors a selective, analytical, structured, and sequential mindset. The focus of vertical thinking is to arrive at a reasoned, defined solution.

Maslow’s Hammer

Maslow’s Hammer, otherwise known as the law of the instrument or the Einstellung effect, is a cognitive bias causing an over-reliance on a familiar tool. This can be expressed as the tendency to overuse a known tool (perhaps a hammer) to solve issues that might require a different tool. This problem is persistent in the business world where perhaps known tools or frameworks might be used in the wrong context (like business plans used as planning tools instead of only investors’ pitches).

Peter Principle

The Peter Principle was first described by Canadian sociologist Lawrence J. Peter in his 1969 book The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle states that people are continually promoted within an organization until they reach their level of incompetence.

Straw Man Fallacy

The straw man fallacy describes an argument that misrepresents an opponent’s stance to make rebuttal more convenient. The straw man fallacy is a type of informal logical fallacy, defined as a flaw in the structure of an argument that renders it invalid.

Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect is a paradoxical phenomenon where the act of suppressing information to reduce visibility causes it to become more visible. In 2003, Streisand attempted to suppress aerial photographs of her Californian home by suing photographer Kenneth Adelman for an invasion of privacy. Adelman, who Streisand assumed was paparazzi, was instead taking photographs to document and study coastal erosion. In her quest for more privacy, Streisand’s efforts had the opposite effect.


As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.

Recognition Heuristic

The recognition heuristic is a psychological model of judgment and decision making. It is part of a suite of simple and economical heuristics proposed by psychologists Daniel Goldstein and Gerd Gigerenzer. The recognition heuristic argues that inferences are made about an object based on whether it is recognized or not.

Representativeness Heuristic

The representativeness heuristic was first described by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The representativeness heuristic judges the probability of an event according to the degree to which that event resembles a broader class. When queried, most will choose the first option because the description of John matches the stereotype we may hold for an archaeologist.

Take-The-Best Heuristic

The take-the-best heuristic is a decision-making shortcut that helps an individual choose between several alternatives. The take-the-best (TTB) heuristic decides between two or more alternatives based on a single good attribute, otherwise known as a cue. In the process, less desirable attributes are ignored.

Bundling Bias

The bundling bias is a cognitive bias in e-commerce where a consumer tends not to use all of the products bought as a group, or bundle. Bundling occurs when individual products or services are sold together as a bundle. Common examples are tickets and experiences. The bundling bias dictates that consumers are less likely to use each item in the bundle. This means that the value of the bundle and indeed the value of each item in the bundle is decreased.

Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect is a cognitive bias where individuals believe that generic information – which applies to most people – is specifically tailored for themselves.

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Goodhart’s Law

Goodhart’s Law is named after British monetary policy theorist and economist Charles Goodhart. Speaking at a conference in Sydney in 1975, Goodhart said that “any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.” Goodhart’s Law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What in marketing can be associated with social proof.

Moore’s Law

Moore’s law states that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles approximately every two years. This observation was made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 and it become a guiding principle for the semiconductor industry and has had far-reaching implications for technology as a whole.

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation as a term was first described by Clayton M. Christensen, an American academic and business consultant whom The Economist called “the most influential management thinker of his time.” Disruptive innovation describes the process by which a product or service takes hold at the bottom of a market and eventually displaces established competitors, products, firms, or alliances.

Value Migration

Value migration was first described by author Adrian Slywotzky in his 1996 book Value Migration – How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition. Value migration is the transferal of value-creating forces from outdated business models to something better able to satisfy consumer demands.

Bye-Now Effect

The bye-now effect describes the tendency for consumers to think of the word “buy” when they read the word “bye”. In a study that tracked diners at a name-your-own-price restaurant, each diner was asked to read one of two phrases before ordering their meal. The first phrase, “so long”, resulted in diners paying an average of $32 per meal. But when diners recited the phrase “bye bye” before ordering, the average price per meal rose to $45.


Groupthink occurs when well-intentioned individuals make non-optimal or irrational decisions based on a belief that dissent is impossible or on a motivation to conform. Groupthink occurs when members of a group reach a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the alternatives and their consequences.


A stereotype is a fixed and over-generalized belief about a particular group or class of people. These beliefs are based on the false assumption that certain characteristics are common to every individual residing in that group. Many stereotypes have a long and sometimes controversial history and are a direct consequence of various political, social, or economic events. Stereotyping is the process of making assumptions about a person or group of people based on various attributes, including gender, race, religion, or physical traits.

Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Murphy’s Law was named after aerospace engineer Edward A. Murphy. During his time working at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949, Murphy cursed a technician who had improperly wired an electrical component and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”

Law of Unintended Consequences

The law of unintended consequences was first mentioned by British philosopher John Locke when writing to parliament about the unintended effects of interest rate rises. However, it was popularized in 1936 by American sociologist Robert K. Merton who looked at unexpected, unanticipated, and unintended consequences and their impact on society.

Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental attribution error is a bias people display when judging the behavior of others. The tendency is to over-emphasize personal characteristics and under-emphasize environmental and situational factors.

Outcome Bias

Outcome bias describes a tendency to evaluate a decision based on its outcome and not on the process by which the decision was reached. In other words, the quality of a decision is only determined once the outcome is known. Outcome bias occurs when a decision is based on the outcome of previous events without regard for how those events developed.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is the tendency for people to perceive past events as more predictable than they actually were. The result of a presidential election, for example, seems more obvious when the winner is announced. The same can also be said for the avid sports fan who predicted the correct outcome of a match regardless of whether their team won or lost. Hindsight bias, therefore, is the tendency for an individual to convince themselves that they accurately predicted an event before it happened.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon Effect.

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