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SP 215 Small Group Communication Structured and Creative Problem Solving in Groups. Problem Solving -A process in which groups analyze a problem and develop a plan of action for solving the problem or reducing its harmful effects. Decision Making

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decision making and problem solving
Problem Solving

-A process in which groups analyze a problem and develop a plan of action for solving the problem or reducing its harmful effects

Decision Making

-Passing judgment on an issue under consideration

-The act of reaching a conclusion

Decision Making and Problem Solving
costs and benefits of group decision making
Costs and Benefits of Group Decision Making
  • Costs: Group decisions take longer and run the risk of causing conflict and hard feelings.
  • Benefits: Groups generate more ideas than individuals and are better equipped to find rational and workable solutions to complex problems.
decision making methods
Decision-Making Methods
  • Voting
  • Consensus

When all group members agree to support a group decision

  • Authority Rule

When a single person or someone outside the group makes the final decision, with or without recommendations from the group


Voting works best when:

  • The group is pressed for time.
  • The issue is not highly controversial.
  • ________________________________.
  • ________________________________.
  • ________________________________.
consensus guidelines
Consensus Guidelines
  • Listen carefully to others.
  • Don’t change your mind to avoid conflict or to reach a quick decision.
  • Welcome differences of opinion.
  • Avoid agreeing to a false consensus.
  • ________________________________.
  • ________________________________.
  • ________________________________.
match the decision making questions
A. Question of Fact Is it true, did it happen, what was the cause?

B. Question of Conjecture Will it happen?

C. Question of Value Is it right, moral, good?

D. Question of Policy What should be done?

___ Should the U.S. provide healthcare for all citizens?

___ How many Americans lack health insurance?

___ Will stem cell research help cure diseases?

___ Is the Canadian health care system better than the U.S. system?

Match the Decision-Making Questions
powerpoint quiz
PowerPoint Quiz

“Should the company assist employees with their child care needs?” This group discussion question asks a question of

  • policy.
  • procedure.
  • fact.
  • conjecture.
  • value.
the need for structured procedures
The Need for Structured Procedures

Benefits of Structured Procedures

  • Balanced Participation
  • Effective Conflict Resolution
  • Clear Organization
  • Group Empowerment
the two step creative process
The Two-Step Creative Process
  • The Creative Thinking Process

Searches, separates, and connects thoughts from many sources, while limiting judgment

  • The Creative Output Process:
    • Combines previously unrelated elements into something new
identify the creative process stages
A. Investigation

B. Imagination

C. Incubation

D. Insight

___ Unusual ideas are generated and discussed.

___ Imaginative ideas percolate and recombine in new ways.

___ The “Aha!” moment occurs and a new solution emerges.

___ Members gather information and analyze the problem.

Identify the Creative Process Stages
match the types of group action
A. Inertia

B. Instruction

C. Imitation

D. Innovation

__ Someone showed us how to do it.

__ We have developed a new way to do it

__ We’ve seen how it’s done.

__ We’ve done it before.

Match the Types of Group Action
the standard agenda
The Standard Agenda

The Standard Agenda

  • Task Clarification
  • Problem Identification
  • Fact Finding
  • Solution Criteria and Limitations
  • Solution Suggestions
  • Solution Evaluation and Selection
  • Solution Implementation
functional theory
Functional Theory
  • Effective preparation requires that members:
    • are interested and energetic
    • research and use quality information
    • select an appropriate procedure
  • Effective procedures require that members:
    • understand the issues
    • agree upon solution criteria
    • identify possible solutions
    • review pros and cons
    • select the solution
single question format
Single-Question Format

Focuses on a single question that, if carefully analyzed and responsibly answered, should provide a solution

  • Identify the problem.
  • Create a collaborative setting.
  • Analyze the issues.
  • Identify possible solutions.
  • Resolve the question.

Brainstorming . . .

  • can generate many ideas in a short period of time.
  • works best when members are comfortable with a freewheeling process.
  • can fail if members are self-conscious and sensitive to implied criticism.
  • can enhance creativity and produce numerous worthwhile ideas.
brainstorming guidelines
Brainstorming Guidelines

Sharpen the Focus

For All to See

Number the Ideas

Encourage Creativity

All Input, No Put Down

Build and Jump








Brainstorming Guidelines
powerpoint quiz20
PowerPoint Quiz

All of the following are guidelines for effective brainstorming EXCEPT:

  • Evaluate ideas only at the end.
  • Post the ideas for all to see.
  • Wait awhile for group members to think before starting to brainstorm.
  • Avoid combining ideas.
nominal group technique ngt
Nominal Group Technique (NGT)

Developed to maximize participation while minimizing interpersonal problems associated with group interaction

  • A collection of people who, at first, work individually rather than collectively.
  • Two NGT phases:
    • fact-finding
    • evaluation
ngt fact finding phase
NGT: Fact-Finding Phase
  • Each member writes ideas on paper.
  • Structured sharing of ideas takes place.
  • Recorder writes all ideas on flip chart.
  • Round-robin listing continues until all members indicate they have no further ideas to share.
ngt evaluation phase
NGT: Evaluation Phase
  • Discussion is structured so that each idea receives attention before voting.
  • Members are asked to clarify or state support/nonsupport of each idea.
  • Independent voting by ranking ideas.
  • Group decision is a mathematically pooled outcome of individual votes.
decreasing options technique dot
Decreasing Options Technique (DOT)
  • Helps groups reduce and refine a large number of suggestions into a manageable number of ideas
  • Five Basic Steps
      • Generate Ideas
      • Post Ideas
      • Sort Ideas
      • Dot the Ideas
      • Prioritize Ideas
when to use dot
When to Use DOT

Use DOT when the group . . .

  • is so large that a discussion of many ideas is unworkable.
  • has generated many competing ideas.
  • wants everyone to contribute.
  • wants to restrain dominant members from exerting too much influence.
  • lacks time to discuss multiple or controversial ideas.
ways to enhance group creativity
A. Control judgment

B. Encourage innovation

C. Ask “What If?”

D. Use metaphors

__ Minimizes negative responses to new ideas

__ Encourages members to think outside the box

__ Discourages preconceived notions about what can and can’t be done

__ Forces group members to look at a problem in new and creative ways

Ways to Enhance Group Creativity
problem solving realities
Problem-Solving Realities
  • Factors that affect the outcome of group decisions:
    • Politics
    • Preexisting preferences
    • Power
  • Use an established decision-makingprocedure to minimize these factors.
group decision making and problem solving
Group Decision Making and Problem Solving

We discussed decision making and problem solving before however, there are some factors to consider.



information overload
Information Overload

Information is the raw material of the group decision making and problem solving.

Information overload occurs when the rate of information flow into a system and/or the complexity of that information exceeds the system’s capacity.



four main consequences of information overload
Four main consequences of information overload:

1) Impairs critical thinking – Separating the wheat from the chaff.

Vast amounts of information makes it difficult to distinguish useless from useful information.

2) Indecisiveness – Conclusion Irresolution.

Too much information can promote indecisiveness.



four main consequences of information overload31
Four main consequences of information overload:

3) Information Bulimia – Binging and Purging.

Information Bulimia is a binge and purge cycle of information processing.

Ex: Students who cram facts for an exam.



four main consequences of information overload32
Four main consequences of information overload:

4) Group Attention Deficit Disorder – Difficulty Concentrating.

Information overload can produce a kind of group attention deficit disorder (ADD).

The megamountains of information competing for group members’ attention makes focusing on any one idea, concept, or problem extremely difficult.



coping with information overload
Coping with information overload:

1) Screen information – limit exposure to information.

2) Shutting off technology – turn off cell phones, pagers, and so on.

3) Specializing – knowing more about a little than knowing little about a lot.

Ex: Don’t try to feed us the entire pie, give us as slice.

Know a lot about a little.



coping with information overload34
Coping with information overload:

4) Becoming Selective – attend to information that relates directly to group goals and priorities.

5) Limiting the Search – set time for searching and time for deciding.

6) Narrowing the Search – use credible databases; find patterns.



information underload
Information Underload

Information overload is more prevalent and a significant problem than information underload.

Information underload refers to an insufficient amount of information available to a group for decision making purposes.



information underload36
Information Underload

Information underload is usually a problem of too much closedness in a system.

Develop perceptual mindsets: the group members’ all seeing the world in the same way.



collective inferential error
Collective Inferential Error:

Conclusions made about the unknown based upon what is known – group members draw inferences from previous experiences, factual data, and predispositions.

In other words, members rely on their own knowledge base.



sources of inferential error
Sources of Inferential Error:

1) General sources of inferential errors:

Seriously limited information base (insufficient quantity of information).

Faulty information base (poor-quality information)



sources of inferential error39
Sources of Inferential Error:

2) Specific sources of inferential errors:

Vividness – the graphic, outrageous, shocking, controversial, dramatic event draws our attention and sticks in our minds (i.e., NEWS Stories).

Unrepresentativeness – distorting the facts (ex: pit bull dogs being mean).

Correlation – X causes Y (Pos/Neg, as you get older, your skin wrinkles).



groupthink janis
Groupthink - Janis

Definition: A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members striving for uniformity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.

In other words, loss of objectivity within the groups decision making process.



groupthink main symptoms
Groupthink -Main symptoms:

1) Overestimation of the group’s power and morality – arrogance.

Illusion of invulnerability.

Unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the group.

2) Closed-Mindedness


Negative stereotyped views of the enemy.



groupthink main symptoms42
Groupthink -Main symptoms:

3) Pressures toward Uniformity – presenting a united front.

Self-censorship of contradictory opinion.

Illusions of unanimity.

Direct pressure applied to deviants.

Self-appointed mindguards.



groupthink main prevention
GroupthinkMain prevention:

Preventing Groupthink:

Recognize groupthink when it first begins.

Minimize statues differences

Seek information that challenges emerging concurrences.

Develop norms that legitimizes disagreement.



group project
Group Project



group project45
Group Project

John Dewey’s Problem Solving Sequence.

Eight (8) Steps



group project46
Group Project

Step 1: Define the Problem.

This step includes defining exactly what the problem is.

What are the symptoms which lead group to become aware of the problem.





group project47
Group Project

Defining the problem is very important in arriving at solutions that will help solve the problem.

If you don’t know or understand the problem, it will difficult to solve the problem.



group project48
Group Project

An improperly defined problem may result in a solution which may bring some change but not in the area the group hoped would change.

Word the problem correctly.



group project49
Group Project

Step 2: List the causes of the problem.

This step is very complex at times but is critical to help solve for the problem.

The group must attempt to discover ALL apparent causes for the problem.



group project50
Group Project

Understand that it is impossible to do away with all the causes to solve for the problem but it is still important to know to what extent each cause contributes to the problem and which causes can be solved.

Sometime large problems need to be broken down into smaller parts with each part analyzed and solved separately.



group project51
Group Project

Step 3: Criteria for picking a solution.

The groups main goal in problem solving is to think of a solution to help solve for your problem.

In order to pick the best possible solution to solve the problem, the group needs to develop a criteria for choosing the best solution.



group project52
Group Project

The criteria will be the yardstick by which the group can measure the various possible solutions to see which solution “BEST” fits the current situation.

The criteria for selecting the best solution for the problem is vital and MUST be done before solutions can be considered.



group project53
Group Project

Some general considered criteria are:

The solution must be financially $ feasible

The solution must be legal.

The solution must do away with certain causes.

The solution must be moral.

These criterions are general, the group may have more specific ones for solving the problem.



group project54
Group Project

Step 4: List all possible solutions.

List every possible solution the group develops or thinks of.

Don’t exclude possible solutions simply because they may not sound good at the time.

This step is simply the listing of possible solutions with no consideration whether they will or will not work.

The more solutions the group has the better.



group project55
Group Project

Step 5: Picking of the best solution.

Picking the best solutions is done by comparing various possible solutions against one another.

List out the criteria the group has developed and check to see which solution best fits the criteria.



criteria picking the best solution57
Criteria – Picking the best solution.

Some times there may be more than one solution to help solve for the problem.

Incorporate the solutions to work in concert with one another.



group project58
Group Project

Step 6: Implementing the solution.

How is the group going to implement the solution(s)?

Why hasn’t this been implemented before?

When would the implementation occur?

Threshold – at what point in time?



group project59
Group Project

Step 7: The benefits

List the benefits that come as a result of helping to solve the problem.

What do we get out of solving the problem?






group project60
Group Project

Step 8: Evaluating the success/failure of the


The evaluation takes place through the process of the project. The objectives of the project are feasible, dated, measurable, and indicate an acceptable level of achievement.

Nothing could be easier to evaluate.



group project61
Group Project

Bottom Line: Either you did it or you didn’t.



group project62
Group Project

Group work time 