Critical Thikining in a Group Setting
As defined by Browne & Keeley (1998), “critical thinking consists of an awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions, plus the ability and willingness to ask and answer them at appropriate times” (p. 4). Thinking critically gives us the opportunity of looking for the real meaning below surface instead of being satisfied with the first impression. By asking right questions we may question the subject and try to understand all aspects of it. Thinking critically helps us to not accept things as a simple statement, but rather try to understand the reasons so we can have a solid opinion about the matter.
In a team setting where decisions need to happen, in order to think critically is important to avoid "groupthink". If the whole group choose to not disagree or object ideas because they prefer to be sympathetic to one another, or don't want to "break the teamwork", or if dissenting opinions are not tolerated, groupthink may happen. The leader has a crucial role in not allowing groupthink to happen by using functional conflict techniques, such as the "Devil's Advocate" or the "Dialectic Method", which are well presented by Bateman & Snell.
In business, depending on the leadership style, decisions are made more one way or another. Besides the leadership style, the kind of issue at stake and the time constraints will be determinant factors on deciding individually or in a group. I would say that few decisions will happen individually, because there will always be some sort of board or leadership team where the decision maker will need to discuss the matter before deciding, especially if that involves strategy. Tactical decisions may happen more frequently in an individual basis, since time will be a constraint. In my case, a bunch of decisions may be taken individually, while other issues that affect our strategy are generally decided in a board setting with the leadership team. Some other issues may be decided with my employees, but even that sometimes cannot go totally by consensus. There have been situations where a simple decision becomes a nightmare, especially if there is some sort of dysfunctional conflict in the background.
I do think there is a decision making style more appropriate for the kind of decision at stake. Some sort of "situational decision making". If enough time is available teams will usually come out with better decisions than most individuals acting alone. According to Baterman & Snell, the advantages or group decision making include: a larger pool of information (the more diverse the group, the bigger the pool will be); more perspectives and approaches; intellectual stimulation; people understand the decision; people are committed to the decision. And there are potential disadvantages that leadership must be aware of: domination of the group by one person; satisficing; groupthink; goal displacement (Bateman & Snell, 2004).
Browne, M. Neil, & Keeley, Stuart M. Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking. In University of Phoenix (Ed.), Readings in Critical Thinking (sections one and two). Boston, MA: Pearson Custom Publishing.
Bateman, Thomas S., & Snell, Scott (2004). Management: The New Competitive Landscape, 6e. The McGraw-Hill Companies.