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Experience is not Expertise

Hierarchy supports Groups in Decision Making and Performance




It is relevant whether a group consists „only“ of equally ranked ones of if there is someone amid them bearing responsibility – at least when it comes to the quality of decisions and high performance.

This is one of the key outcomes of a newly published American-Australian scientific paper: Egalitarian groups are influenced in their decision making processes pretty quickly by experience one or more among them is bringing in. What they neglect then, though, is the fact of the matter that experience = routine does not stand necessarily for expertise = ability. This situation changes promptly if someone is part of the group who is higher ranked than the others: being now motivated by potential rewards the real experts pop up and in becoming visible they determine substance and direction of the group. Better decisions subsequently lead to higher performances – therefore groups with hierarchy prevail in competitive situations.

Bonner/Soderberg/Meikle/Overbeck, “The Effects of Experience, Expertise, Reward Power. And Decision Power in Groups”, in: Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, 2022, vol. 26, Nr. 4, 309 – 321.

From the practice:

Whether we like it or not: grassroots democracy in the office is frequently satisfied with in the lowest common determinator and not in more quality in decisions. This is not easy to accept, I know. The truth is, though, that workshops without any moderator or meetings without any superior or project leader take longer and result in less concrete take aways.

Additionally I´d like to express my sympathy with this study since they point to the underestimated fact that experience as routine is of no high value per se. Just people doing things or executing tasks for years does not mean necessarily that they do it well, let alone professionally. Particularly within my business I am very much aware of this argumentation: he/she has held so many speeches and presentations in their career – he/she is therefore a good speaker or presentator. No! You may do things over years still mediocre – quantity does not lead directly to quality. When there is no corrective, improvements are difficult to be established, aren´t they?

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