Group discussion makes high quality decisions. Most group communication disrupts progress towards accomplishing these functional tasks, but counteractive communication can bring people back to rational inquiry. Group interaction has a positive impact on the final decision by coming up with a quality solution.
Previously, the role of group discussion is commonly reflected in the following not so favourable statements :
1) If you want something done, do it yourself.
2) Too many cooks spoil the broth.
3) A committee is a group that keeps minutes and wastes hours.
4) Committees lure fresh ideas down a cul-de-sac and quietly strangle them.
Hirokawa & Gouran says that group interaction actually has a positive effect on the final decision. They speak of quality solutions. Talk is regarded as the social tool that helps groups reach better conclusions than they otherwise might. Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.
Four functions of effective communication
Complex living organisms must satisfy a number of functions, such as respiration, circulation, digestions, and elimination of bodily waste, if they are to survive and thrive in an ever-changing environment.
Group decision-making process – need to fulfill 4 task requirements if members are to reach a high-quality solution.
1) Problem analysis
Hirokawa note that the clearest example of faulty analysis is a failure to recognize a potential threat when one really exist.
Is something going on that requires improvement or change?
2) Goal setting
A group need to establish criteria by which to judge proposed solutions.
If the group fails to satisfy this task requirement, it’s likely that the decision will be driven by politics rather than reason.
3) Identification of alternatives
Coming up with alternative solutions which group members could choose.
4) Evaluation of positive and negative consequences
After a group has identified alternative solutions, the participants must take care to test the relative merits of each option against the criteria they believe are important.
All the four above functions need to be accomplished to maximize the probability of a high quality decision, but no single function is more important than the others.
Group that successfully resolve particularly tough problems often take a common decision making path.
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The role of communication in fulfilling the functions
Discussion among members has a significant effect on the quality of group decisions.
Verbal interaction makes it possible for members to :
a) distribute and pool information
b) catch and remedy errors
c) influence each other
Communication is best when it doesn’t obstruct or distort the free flow of ideas.
3 types of communication in decision-making groups
a) Promotive – interaction that moves the group along the goal path by calling attention to one of the four requisite decision making functions
b) Disruptive – interaction that diverts, retards, or frustrates group members’ ability to achieve the four task functions
c) Counteractive – interaction that members use to get the group back on track
PRACTICAL ADVISE FOR AMATEURS AND PROFESSIONALS
How can you and I use the functional perspective to facilitate better group decisions?
1) Ensure we do not come to the discussion table with the sort of closed-minded attitude that contributes to the problem rather than the solution.
2) Also, we should be careful of pushing any “intuitive hunch” or “gut feeling” that we can not back up with reasonable evidence.
This article is extracted from Randy Hirokawa & Dennis Gouran’s theory - Functional Perspective on Group Decision Making from the book A First Look at Communication Theory.
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