‘Groupthink and ‘Groupshift’
Both committee and command meetings discussed above are the most common forms of group decision making in face – to – face interacting groups. But these group decision making techniques often lead to two by – products or phenomena that have come to be known as ‘group think’ and ‘group shift. Considerable amount of attention has been paid to them by researchers in organizational behavior. We may touch upon them in brief.
‘Group think’ is a phenomenon related to norms. It relates to the situations in which group pressures for conformity, as has been pointed out earlier; deter the group from critically examining unusual, minority, or unpopular views. Groupthink has been called a ‘disease’ that “attacks many groups and can dramatically hinder their performance. The unwritten laws of groups working under the pressure of ‘groupthink’ are conformity and an illusion of unanimity.
‘Groupshift’, on the other hand is a phenomenon in which group members tend to exaggerate the initial position they held. In some situations, it has been observed, caution dominates and there is a conservative shift. It can also be regarded as a special case of groupthink. The decision of the group reflects the dominant decision making norm that develops in the course of discussion. Now whether the shift will be in the direction of greater caution or more risk will depend on the dominant prediscussion norm.
In order to reduce many of the problems inherent in traditional interacting group on account of ‘groupthink’ group shift’, brainstorming, nominal group and Delphi techniques have been proposed.
(c) Brain – Storming Sessions
The group decision making technique known as ‘brainstorming’ was developed in 1939 by American advertising agency. Since that time it has been widely used by business, government and military institutions. The principles underlying brain – storming can be stated as follows:-
- No ideas are criticized.
- Freewheeling is encouraged – the more outlandish or unusual an idea the better.
- The emphasis is on quality of Ideas.
As we can see from the principles stated above, brainstorming is a clever device meant to overcome pressures of conformity that obstruct the development of creative ideas. It is, infect, an idea generation process that encourages all alternative approaches and withholds criticism.
In a typical brain – storming session, six to ten people sit around a table. The group leader clearly states a problem. The group members then ‘free wheel’ as many alternatives as they can come forward with in a given length of time. Without any criticism all alternatives are recorded for discussion and analysis. Even the most bizarre idea is not criticized and the members are encouraged to ‘think the unusual”. It is basically a process of generating ideas.
(d) Nominal Group Technique
The nominal group technique, as the term itself suggests, restricts discussion or interpersonal communication. The group members are only physically present as in a traditional meeting, but they operate independently. When a problem is presented, the following steps are taken in the stated sequence:
- Members meet as group, but each member independently writes down his ideas on the problem. Before any discussion takes place.
- Then each member presents his idea to the group, either by writing on a flip chart or chalk board. No discussion takes place until all ideas have been recorded.
- After this, the group discusses the ideas for clarity and evaluation.
- Each member silently, and independently rank orders the ideas.
- The final decision is taken on the basis f the idea with the highest aggregate ranking.
The advantage of the nominal group technique is that it permits the group to react formally without restricting independent thinking as happens often in the interacting group.
(e) Delphi Technique
Delphi technique s similar to the nominal group technique except that it does not require the physical presence of the group’s members. In fact, it does not allow the group members to meet face to face. The steps of this technique can be stated in the following sequence:
- The problem is identified and members are asked to provide solutions through a series of carefully designed questionnaires.
- Each member anonymously and independently completes the first questionnaire.
- Results of the first questionnaire are compiled at a central location, transcribed and reproduced.
- Each member receives a copy of the results.
- After viewing the results members are again asked to give their solutions. The results trigger new solutions or cause changes in the original position.
- Step 4 and 5 are repeated as often as necessary until consensus is reached.
As in nominal group technique, the Delphi technique saves the group members from one another’s undue influence. Since it does not require the physical presence of the participants, the Delphi technique can be used for decision making the among groups geographically scattered over distant places. For example, SONY has used this technique to get feedback from its managers posted in Tokyo, Brussels, Paris, London, New York, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro and Melbourne as to the best world wide price for one of its products.
The singular advantage of Delphi Technique is that it avoids the problem of getting the executives together at one place and thus saves the huge amount of money spent on travel etc.
Delphi Technique has its drawbacks also. In the first place, it is extremely time consuming. Where a speedy decision is needed this technique cannot be used. The responses to the questionnaire may not be satisfactory. Moreover, this technique lacks the rick harvest of alternatives and creative ideas that come up in face – to – Face interaction.
One may ask which of these techniques is the most effective. Each of these techniques has its own strength and weakness. It is all a matter of the criteria laid down for the group and what the organization seeks to achieve. Traditionally we have been used to the face – to – face interacting group meetings. They are indeed good for building up group cohesiveness and interpersonal relationships. Brainstorming sessions encourage free and unusual ways of thinking and keep the social pressures to the barest minimum. Nominal group technique also encourages independent thinking and discourages group or social pressure. The Delphi technique makes demands on our intelligence to design questionnaires and to give carefully thought out answers/responses to them. As the respondents to the questionnaires are placed wide apart, the Delphi technique minimizes interpersonal conflict. So, off hand it is difficult to say which technique is the best or more effective.
All these techniques are decision making techniques and their results are binding on the organization. There are certain other group activities in which a lot of information is gathered, shared, generated, passed on, processed. But the conclusions/inferences/decisions of these group activities are not binding in the first instance. On the other hand their outcome may, and very often does, lead to more intensified group decision making processes through special committees, advisory committees, action groups and so on. Conferences/colloquiums/conventions, seminars and workshops are such activities that the organizations are now more and more resorting to. Their decisions are recommendatory rather than mandatory.