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Group vs. Individual Decision Making: When to Use Each

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  • 0:05 Go with the Herd
  • 0:42 Advantages and Disadvantages
  • 2:42 When to Use Each Model
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn
At times an individual makes a decision, and at other times a group makes the decision. In this lesson, we will look at the issues surrounding group versus individual decisions

Go With the Herd

Every time I watch an old Western on television, there is at least one scene of a cattle drive. All the cattle moving together in one direction, being herded in the destination the cowboys want them to go. On occasion, we see a cow break from the herd and go out on its own, and it is usually tracked down and brought back to the herd. Now, it may not seem like much, but in many ways, this is an example of individual decision making versus group decision making. That one lone cow thought to herself: 'I am going to go over here and get away from the group.' Until that point, every decision the herd made, that cow followed.

Advantages and Disadvantages

In business, decisions are an everyday occurrence. The challenge we all face is when to make decisions based on group input as opposed to making a decision on individual input. There are advantages and disadvantages to both concepts, and truth be told, neither is really right or wrong.

You see, if we make a decision as a group, we are getting a consensus, which is a cohesive, agreeable decision made by more than one person. This consensus takes into account the different viewpoints, backgrounds and perspectives of the individuals that made the decision. Truly, it is a team decision and one that can bring individuals in an organization together to fix a common problem. Contrary to that, we have consultation, and it represents one person getting feedback from the group but making a decision on his or her own. While we are still using a group to help us make a decision, the final decision is made by one person and not by the group, thus there is no consensus being reached.

One person can make a decision much quicker than a group, but the information used to make that decision is limited to that one person and his or her perspective on the issue. In some cases, that can be a positive, as the decision needs to be made quickly, or the decision only requires one person to be accountable for making it, thus a consensus is not required. However, it can also be a negative, as again, we have one person making a decision without potentially obtaining feedback from the others.

Group decision making can be a positive because, once again, a group incorporates many different perspectives and backgrounds. For example, if the decision is going to be made to raise the price of a product, a group consensus of sales, marketing, engineering and production may be beneficial. No one person could totally comprehend all the ramifications of a price increase, and a consensus could help. Conversely, there could be too many different perspectives, making a consensus almost impossible to reach, thus the individual who is ultimately responsible will have to make an individual decision.

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