Today's session will have one main objective:
1. To introduce the concept of group decision making, and demonstrate one commonly used technique.
As social creatures,
humans are often asked to make collaborative decisions on issues that
affect an entire group. History is replete with examples of both
effective and ineffective decisions that were rendered by various
In some cases, group
decisions are actually made by a single powerful individual with the
assent of numerous individuals holding no power. Those systems
follow a dictator model, and
the success of those decisions rests largely on the knowledge and
ethics of the dictator.
At the other extreme,
decisions are often based on a democratic
vote of all individuals in the population. Typically, however,
voting members must fulfill some kind of a requirement, such as age,
residence, or education.
Somewhere between those
two extremes are decision-making processes based on a representative system. In a
representative system, the entire population elects a few members
willing to take the time to sort through issues and vote on them.
The idea is that the representatives will carry out the will of the
entire population. Most levels of government in the US function
according to that system.
These kinds of group
decision-making systems are applicable in cases where the group is
large (>25 individuals), and where not everybody's opinion can be
In many cases, the groups
are smaller (3-15 individuals). In such cases, each person can
indeed have a say, and realistically influence all other members of the
group. The goal is to reach consensus,
whereby the decision reflects the true desire of the group.
Common pitfalls to avoid
in small-group decision-making include:
Often, groups will engage
the services of a facilitator
to lead them through a process whereby the pitfalls are avoided and the
decision is made in a logical, forthright fashion.
Several methods of
small-group decision making are well known. They include
brainstorming, posterboarding, and charette. Additional
information about these methods and other examples of group decision
making are presented here,
here, and here.
Example of Group
Brainstorming is commonly
used by small groups when trying to identify and prioritize choices
from a large number of potential options. For example, a club
might want to take a day field trip to an interesting location within a
2 hour drive of Wilkes-Barre. Clearly there are numerous choices,
based on interest, cost, and many other factors. The group would
want to select a small subset for direct vote.
that four people be identified and assigned the following roles: (1)
timekeeper, (2) recorder, and (3) reporter.
involves the following steps:
1. Ideas are freely
suggested, and every one is recorded. At this point, even
"strange" ideas are worthwhile because they might spur somebody else to
conceive an even better idea.
2. The group
reviews the ideas, and ranks them based on consensus. This can be
done through discussion, or members of the group can be given a certain
number of votes and asked to allocate their votes to the various ideas
(sometimes each member is given a set number of colored "stickers" to
paste next to their favorite ideas. The ideas are then ranked
according to the stickers received.).
3. Top ideas are
presented orally or in a summary form prepared by the reporter.
Application of Brainstorming
The course instructor will provide you with a common object and will ask you to identify the seven best uses of that object. The class will divide into five teams of 5-6 students, and each team will be given a flipchart and a set of stickers. Students will find an unoccupied classroom on the third floor of Stark Learning Center. They will spend 15 minutes identifying potential uses via brainstorming. Following that, they will spend 5 minutes voting with the stickers.
All teams will reassemble, and each team will be given two minutes to read off their seven best uses, based on the voting.
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