The value of task conflict to group decisions
Abstract (via Peter J. Boyle,Dennis Hanlon,J. Edward Russo )
We tested the ability of task conflict to improve the quality of decisions made by four-person groups. In a choice between two entrepreneurial investments, conflict was created by endowing group members with a preference for either one investment or the other. Because the decision was subjective, decision quality was necessarily judged by a process criterion, the reduction in the biased evaluation of new information to support the leading alternative. Groups in which conflict was installed exhibited less bias than individuals, who themselves exhibited less bias than groups without such conflict. Regardless of whether conflict was installed, groups that reached an early consensus exhibited the greatest information bias, while groups that experienced sustained conflict exhibited the least. Before achieving consensus, information bias was not significantly different from zero, but then rose steadily after that agreement. This result identifies one specific mechanism by which conflict can improve the process of group decisions.