Group decision making is notoriously worse than individual decision making. For the purposes of this page, we are talking about mid-to-large sized groups, by which we mean groups of about 7 or more.

To err is human, to really mess things up requires a committee.

Problems with group decision making


It often takes a long time for a mid-sized group to come to a decision, much longer than it would take an individual or a group of, say, three people.

This makes decisions take longer, but also makes each member of the group spend more time talking about the decision. In addition, since all of these people's time is being required, many man hours are being spent. (i.e. if a group of 2 people spend 1 hour making a decision, 2 man-hours have been spent; if a group of 50 people spend 2 hours making the same decision, each member has spent twice as long, and 100 man hours have been spent in total instead of 2).


This has a page of its own; please see GroupThink.


In some contexts, decisions by a large group end up appealing to the "lowest common denominator" in terms of careless thinking.


Advantages of group decision making

On the other hand, often a group is better than an individual at making decisions.

"In The Wisdom of Crowds, Surowiecki explores the notion that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant; crowds can be better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions and even predicting the future. … the TV game show … every week Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? pitted group intelligence against individual intelligence, and that every week, group intelligence won."

Another example is markets. Markets have been shown to be a better method of aggregating individual prediction than either asking an elite few who are the best individual predictors, or voting. See InformationDerivativeMarket.


Decision Science News

The idea of "code reviews" and "editor" and "proofreader" and "dive buddy" are based on the idea that one often can't see one's own mistakes.

See also PeerReview.

Certain activities *require* a group of people

Typically one goes to a pre-assembled group of people, and has them somehow choose (by vote, by their appointed leader, or in some other way) whether to do this activity.

Another way is to announce a date and time for some event. If enough people show up (or say, ahead of time, that they will show up), then the activity happens. "Burning Man" is like this.

Another way … ?


EditNearLinks: GroupThink PeerReview