Does information sharing always improve team decision making? The hidden profile paradigm.

A hidden profile is a paradigm that occurs in the process of group decision making.
It is found in a situation when part of some information is shared among group members (i.e. all members possess this information prior to discussion), whereas other pieces of information are unshared (i.e. information known to only one member prior to discussion). Furthermore, shared information and unshared information have different decisional implications, and the alternative implied by the unshared information is the correct one given all information available to the group. However, no group member can detect this best solution on the basis of her or his individual information prior to discussion.  It can only be found by pooling the unshared information during group discussion.

While past studies are based on an implicit assumption that information sharing always leads to information use and optimal decision outcomes, there is an argue that this assumption is applicable only when information is equally distributed among the participating members in a team. By adopting the hidden profile paradigm (see above), it's suggested that when information is unequally distributed, information sharing does not facilitate optimal decision making.
In the meantime, it has been found that team functional diversity is a main factor worsening the hidden profile situation. When decision makers are diverse in terms of their functional backgrounds, the facilitating effect of information sharing decreases.

Results indicate that information use, rather than information sharing, is the ultimate gateway that leads decision makers to optimal decision outcomes.

(* by Yazhen Xiao, Haisu Zhang and Timothy M. Basadur)

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