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Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter Hardcover – December 23, 2014
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"[Wiser] sheds light on the specifics of why and how group decisions go wrong, and share insights into how leaders can avoid the pitfalls and reach better outcomes....With examples from a broad range of organisations from Google to the CIA, Wiser is designed to help leaders and their teams make better decisions that lead to greater success." Inside HR
ADVANCE PRAISE for Wiser:
Lawrence Summers, Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton; Director of the National Economic Council under President Obama
No man is an island, and all important decisions are made collectively. This important book shows how they can be made better and so will make groups, crowds, and our society wiser and better. Anyone involved in making decisions that matter should read this book.”
John Engler, President, Business Roundtable
Drawing on academic research, real-world examples, and, in Sunstein’s case, White House experience, the authors identify the most common mistakes groups fall victim to and offer sensible ways to avoid those often-expensive errors. In Sunstein and Hastie’s recommendations, CEOs and managers alike will find much that leaves them, in a word, wiser.”
Claire Shipman, Correspondent, ABC’s Good Morning America; Author, The Confidence Code
More minds aren’t always better, according to Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie. In Wiser, they deftly lay out the unexpected perils of group decision making and provide smart, straightforward, and often surprising fixes. Utterly fascinating and counterintuitive, this book is an essential read for executives and managersfor anybody, actually, hoping to make an enterprise successful.”
Austan Goolsbee, Professor, University of Chicago Booth School of Business; former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama
There have been lots of books written on why and how individuals make bad decisions. But many of the most important decisions are made by committee, where normal problems get magnified. Finally, Sunstein and Hastie have provided crucial insights and lessons to help groups and teams avoid pitfalls and make effective decisions. Leaders everywhere should take these lessons to heart.”
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prizewinning presidential historian; Author, Team of Rivals and The Bully Pulpit
This gem of a book is full of penetrating insight, sensible advice, and fascinating stories drawn from practical experience. Written with clarity and grace, it provides an invaluable road map for leaders and managers in both public and private life. I can think of dozens of historical decisions that might have been better made had our leaders followed these precepts.”
About the Author
Reid Hastie is an expert on the psychology of decision making, especially by groups. He has authored or coauthored several academic books, including Rational Choice in an Uncertain World. He is currently the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
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Top Customer Reviews
Wiser 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.
n 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?
Why a four, and not a five? The lay reader (of which I number myself) would have benefited from an exposition of cognitive bias on the individual level, to see its relationship and expression amidst groups. Although Sunstein let us all leave our math at the door, at times, at least with the notes, it would have been worthwhile to show the derivations of some of the work (surely, at least Condorcet's reasoning is available to anyone with a good high school education). And lastly, although the book ends by saying that after 30 years of research, behavioural economics is finally beginning to bear fruit, a bit more helpful advice, perhaps in a check-box summary "If you think the problem is A, try B," would have been extremely useful for us non-academics, who struggle with poorly-performing groups daily.
Still, if I could have given this 4.5 stars, I would have, which would then have rounded up to a 5, no?. But as an alum of the University of Chicago's Booth School, I am accustomed to low grades. I expect that this would be expected by both Thaler and Sunstein - after all, we share the same institution! But get it, read it; if you deal with organizations, you will benefit.
1) Collective myopia. Groups often fall victim to the unrecognized impact of common mental short cuts
2) Following the lead. Poor group decisions can be due to the influence of those who speak first. Sunstein and Hastie explain how two kinds of “cascade effects” are in operation here: informational and reputational.
3) Closing ranks. Groups tend to become more united and skewed in a particular direction as a result of their discussions.
4) Ignoring the outliers. Finally, group discussions have a tendency to focus on what the group knows in common and to give little attention to what may be known by only a few.
Recognizing the influence (usually unintended) of these and related factors is a critical first step. Leaders can minimize the impact of these factors and build better decisions with groups simply by how they structure their meetings and discussions. As the authors put it, "Sometimes groups get wiser with the help of some easy, informal methods or tactics....Sometimes they do best when they adopt more formal approaches." They present some of each. My only reservation with the book is that it could have put more attention on providing leaders with more practical informal tactics that leaders can readily adopt.