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Group therapy

Simply put: when it comes to taking decisions, the fewer the heads the better the decision.

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After spending hours in several long meetings to decide on how best to fill up this space, we came to the conclusion that we make our final decision in another meeting tomorrow. That, as you must have guessed, would have posed a serious problem considering that this editorial had to be written yesterday for you to be reading it today. Luckily, bright sparks with bouts of megalomania still do exist in this let’s-do-this-democratically world. So someone — who will remain anonymous for practical reasons like non-accountability — came up with the idea of commenting on a recent study conducted by researchers at Indiana University in the US. He then proceeded to act on it — that is, write this editorial — all by himself without getting anybody involved. So what are the findings of the research that have left many companies scratching their conference tables? Simply put: when it comes to taking decisions, the fewer the heads the better the decision.

While this may sound like the sort of research findings that would suit Pervez Musharraf and Balasaheb Thackeray, the researchers are much more than just sympathisers for dictatorship. The participants of the study were exposed to one brand of soft drink and then asked to think of alternative brands. As a group they came up with significantly fewer names than they did when thinking alone. Unlike a normal living room with a small number of people, a board meeting or a brainstorming session comprises larger numbers. Which means that decisions like whether to order Chinese food or pizzas or tandoori in front of the television are made quickly and usually ‘correctly’. The larger groups discussing about coming up with the right logo or what the necessary budget allocations for advertising a product should be tend to throw up ‘cloudy’ ideas and, therefore, fuzzy decisions. Which means that the latter could learn a lesson from the former: smaller groups in decision-making meetings please.

Which, of course, does not mean that companies should turn into tight oligarchies — or even worse, one-man shows. The only problem with these models is that wrong ideas and decisions can be thrust into action. But then, too many cooks do spoil the broth. And as you may have noticed, this space has been filled and you have read this editorial till the end.

First Published: Feb 24, 2007 00:39 IST