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Group dynamics - 4 things you need to know

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit" - Harry S. Truman

Thank you for joining me for another blog (#40!), highlighting decision-making and the brain. This is my public exploration of what drives decision-making and how we can use that information to make better decisions, resulting in better outcomes.

For the last 8 weeks we have researched group dynamics. We have looked at the benefits of different approaches, incentives, meetings/discussions, how to lead teams to make good decisions. Group dynamics is a topic with lots of data and research, and there are predictably better ways to set up and conduct group decisions.

I have tried to distill all the material into one short blog but if you wish to dig deeper into any topic, I have listed the individual blogs below. Without further ado, here is a whistlestop tour of group dynamics - I hope you enjoy the summary tables.

Group dynamics and decision-making - what you need to know

1) Important decisions tend to be made in groups: they increase the information available, shine light on blind-spots, bring challenge, and represent different viewpoints.

2) Crowds are wise, often wiser than individual experts: For fairly simple, well understood problems like 'how many sweets are there in this jar', you can get a pretty accurate picture by asking lots of individuals to take a guess and using an average. Whilst each individual guess might be far away, the diversity of approaches (some of which will over-estimate and others underestimate) allows for surprisingly accurate results. Markets and juries have been seen as representing the wisdom of the crowds, and more recently tripadvisor reviews, have allowed people to benefit from a crowdsourced average of opinions.

3) Different set ups tend to have different outcomes: in general if you had to pick factors that seem to drive good decision-making it would be i) individuals with good decision-making skills, ii) good social dynamics iii) aligned incentives. Each of these factors will be explained.

i) Features to look for in individuals with good decision-making skills:

ii) Social dynamics you want

iii) How to get people the right 'skin in the game'

4) Deliberately lead teams for a good decision-making atmosphere:

- Leaders set the tone for discussions, and they can get the best out of their group by i) preparing well, ii) discouraging deference, iii) sharing their opinion last.

- Leaders shepherd discussions well by i) getting the experts on a topic the appropriate time, ii) by avoiding getting bogged down on details that have little impact and iii) asking questions that help clarify thought rather than leading to a particular conclusion

- Leaders i) summarise conclusions and action points clearly, ii) expect everyone to abide by group decisions and iii) maintain a reputation for action.

I hope you have enjoyed this series. The next blog is on "non-standard book recommendations". Don't forget to sign up to the mailing list!

Group dynamics series:


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