The bottom line: A powerful analysis of how and why group decisions go terribly wrong, and how to steer groups toward better outcomes.
The fact is, people tend to congregate, and when they do congregate they tend to make decisions together. While groups have the potential to make extraordinary decisions compared to individuals, groups are not inherently better and are capable of making even more catastrophic choices.
Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter describes the forces at play that encourage dumb “groupthink” and equips readers with the tools necessary to make all their groups more effective, productive, responsive, and smarter.
The book is sharp, to the point, and is very much evidence based—it makes frequent use of current studies in social psychology and related fields to support its claims.
Wiser is divided into two parts. Part one is titled “How Groups Fail” and does a fine job of detailing how groups can amplify bad ideas and subconsciously exclude good ones. Part Two is titled “How Groups Succeed” and for obvious reasons contains much more actionable information. In this section, the authors provide blueprints and examples for the most effective group decision-making, and most importantly, how to aggregate data. All leaders of a group may find this information game changing because it places less value on them and more on cumulative information—hence “anxious” leaders who incessantly reject majority opinion become a vital necessity. Also, the chapters on tournaments, prediction markets, and public opinion are more theoretical and do not have as much universal draw as other chapters, but these sections do contain interesting information nonetheless.
In my mind, this book’s greatest value is its cross-disciplinary applicability. So whether you are leading a business, a school, a church, a medical practice, or a group of friends, this book will offer valuable advice and guidance on how to make your group dynamics smarter and more effective. And, as a group member, you will have a new understanding of your ideal role in light of all the forces at play that will tend to make group decisions “dumber.” What’s not to like about that?
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal