Group decision making is tough, no matter the circumstance.
Business trends tell us that large pools of knowledge equal a superior outcome—but by now we know that more heads don’t necessarily mean better ideas.
In a group review process, opinions get distorted, influenced, glorified, hushed or pushed into a corner. Individual biases creep up. Power plays begin. Loud individuals sway the decisions.
And most of these things happen entirely subconsciously.
That’s why it’s important for teams to regularly think about the challenges of making decisions in a group and to consider new processes for doing so. Here are 7 key techniques for making better group decisions in your next review.
7 group decision-making strategies for every team
- Keep your review team small
When you need to make important decisions, keep your review team as small and nimble as you can.
Research studies show that groups of more than seven members are generally more susceptible to common biases. The larger the group, the more likely members are to weigh up information in a way that resonates with their pre-existing beliefs, opinions and way of thinking.
Keeping your review teams to between three and five people can help eliminate some of those biases, while still being large enough to bring in multiple perspectives.
- Appoint a devil’s advocate
One of the most damaging outcomes of group decision-making is groupthink, where groups come to decisions in an unchallenged environment so as to reach the outcome faster.
One way to counteract it is to appoint a “devil’s advocate”.
That person should be tasked with advertising the group’s consensus where possible, and challenge decisions that are agreed upon too quickly.
There are several recent research studies that have shown that the simple act of delegating the right to at least one person can result in significant improvements in the quality of decisions made.
- Don’t depend solely on experts
Experts can contribute to stronger decisions, there’s no doubt about it.
However, be wary of over-relying on expert opinions to guide the outcome, as that can send a group into bias. Blind trust in experts can lead the rest of the group to take a back a seat and “leave it to the experts”, something that won’t help you reach a high-quality outcome at the end.
If you have experts among you, invite them to provide their opinion and input as exactly that—expert input. They should be slightly removed from the group and be there to provide an informed perspective, rather than to sway decisions or dominate the narrative.
- Try brainwriting instead of brainstorming
Rather than asking team members to simply shout out their ideas while someone frantically writes it down on a big sheet of paper, ask the group to do some brainwriting instead.
Brainwriting is simple. Ask group members to write down a number of ideas on a piece of paper, all at the same time, for a few minutes.
Then, have each member pass their paper onto someone else, who will read the ideas (to themselves), and add a few of their own. After a few minutes (and when everyone has written on each other’s papers, have someone collect the sheets and stick them up on a wall for discussion.
Brainwriting works best if:
- The group is too large for a brainstorming session
- You are concerned about loud more extroverted members overpowering the discussion
- Similarly, you have quiet members of the group who may feel intimated during brainstorming
- You don’t have an experienced moderator
For faster, smaller decisions, a simple poll can get the job done. Polling can help you determine how group members feel about an outcome without having to get deep into the reasons why.
For example, a group leader may simply ask, “If we were to proceed right now, how many of you would favour option 1?”
By asking for a show of hands, you can gauge a quick answer. Of course, polling only makes sense for low-impact decisions, so for those loftier problems, you’ll need a more robust framework for reaching an outcome.
- Bain’s RAPID framework
Sometimes, the hardest part about coming to a large group decision is knowing who’s responsible for different areas of the decision.
When team members are uncertain about their roles, that’s when friction arises and the decision-making process hits a dead end.
If the decision has several moving parts or is multi-layered, you’ll most likely have several people involved, and that can take up time. Think of the RAPID framework as a checklist in the sense that there must be someone covering each area before you move on the next.
The RAPID framework is made up of five roles that can be allocated within the decision-making process:
- R – Recommend
- A – Agree
- P – Perform
- I – Input
- D – Decide
The RAPID framework is detailed and multilayered, so unsurprisingly, it’s most suitable for large-scale decisions that may affect several areas of an institution or business. You can learn more about the full framework here.
- Decision by consensus
Making decisions by consensus tends to be the most democratic and fair way to reach an outcome, but it’s not without its challenges.
Consensus decision making is when all group members genuinely agree on the final decision and are willing to advocate for its success.
Groups attempting to reach consensus will discuss the topic and negotiate until everyone involved understands, and can agree to move forward with it.
Sometimes, the suggested outcome simply won’t be agreeable for everyone in the group, and when that happens, consensus won’t be the best method to move forward.
But if group members can take a leaf out of Jeff Bezos’ book and agree to “disagree and commit”, teams can make great strides.
Gather input separately
In group meetings, the first person to speak, or the loudest, has the advantage. Ideas get enthusiastically thrown around in the first ten minutes and that steers the meeting.
Some ideas will never get heard, and opposition can easily fizzle out.
Here’s where it’s a good idea to get everyone’s input separately, and then share perspectives in the group. Ask members to individually jot down answers to the questions,
What are the most important goals for this decision?
What is the most realistic way to meet that goal?
By giving everyone time to think about their best answer, and doing so separately, you level out the playing field for those with different communication styles.
When the group is together, share the answers with everyone and ask the right questions to find out what stands out the most, and what elements are missing.
Making faster high-powered decisions with Submit
Reaching higher-quality decisions can be challenging in groups, and that’s why the team at Submit have put hard work into making collaborative review as easy as possible.
High-powered teams know that how you come to a decision can sometimes be just as important as the decision itself, and a little help goes a long way.
On a collaborative platform like Submit, review teams can work together seamlessly without interrupting any other areas of their workflow.
From flexible team permissions to advanced tools to help build a powerful collaborative review process, Submit helps teams do more of what they do, better.
Ready to start making better, faster decisions? Sign up for a free trial of the platform and give your team the tools they need to make life easier and help them make a bigger impact—they’ll thank you for it.