One of the most important functions of modern groups is decision-making. The fates of our families, our corporations, even our nations, hang on our collective ability to make good decisions.
Unfortunately psychologists have found that group counseling can suffer all kinds of biases and glitches that lead to poor choices. Happily, though, experiments have revealed some straightforward remedies for these failings.
Because group members are often very similar in background and values they are quick to adopt majority decisions. Psychologist call this groupthink. We can combat groupthink by nurturing authentic dissent. This is no mean feat as dissenters are often shunned because of the challenge they present. Support for dissenters needs to come from leaders.
It seems only natural that groups will average out the preferences of its members, but psychologists have shown this often isn’t true. In fact people are likely to display group polarization when together: initial preferences actually become exaggerated by group discussions. We can reduce this by avoiding homogeneity in group composition.
Finally, the most baffling of our behaviours in groups is our inability to share information effectively. Instead of revealing vital information known only to ourselves, time and again research has shown that we talk about things everyone already knows. We can reduce this counter-productive behaviour by recalling relevant information before meetings and ensuring each is aware of others’ expertise.