LIGC Blog Post #6 – The Common Information Effect

Friday’s simulation, titled “Climbing Mount Everest”, put our decision-making and team leadership skills to the test. In this simulation, I was placed on a team with four other people and we were each given a unique role. There was a team leader, an environmentalist, a photographer, a physician, and a marathoner. Personally, my role was the physician; I was in charge of allocating medical resources to the people who needed it. We had individual objectives to fulfill as well as group objectives to fulfill. Each decision required us to decide whether we wanted to ascend to the next checkpoint or stay where we are. Our goals, health statuses, and resources shaped our decisions. 

The most compelling lesson I learned from the simulation was the common information effect. This is the fact that groups spent a lot of time discussing information which is shared rather than unshared. Information which is shared and known by more members of the group has a greater impact on the decision rather than the unshared information. The next time I find myself in a leadership position, I will combat the common information effect by ensuring that everyone individually shares their information. If everyone goes around and shares the information they possess, it puts all team members on the same page and a better decision-making process is the result. An increased focus on unique information is essential to combating the common information effect.

Our team’s biggest weakness was sharing personal information. We would have had a more efficient process if we had all shared and wrote down the information each of us had (similar to the approach team 2 took). Because not all information was shared, miscommunication was a huge obstacle. 

Some reasons why common information is easily shared within a group is due to bias and mutual enhancement. There is a feel-good factor which comes into play when people share the same information. Feelings of competency and credibility are created in an environment of shared knowledge. Shared information is also generally considered to be more important and relevant compared to unshared information. Going back to the first day of class, Bryan assigned us into teams of two and instructed us to find three obscure commonalities. From this icebreaker, I found the common information effect to be consistent. It definitely felt good whenever my partner would say a fact about himself, and I would say “me too!”. Shared experiences and information is much more favorable among teams. 

A psychologically safe environment is one that encourages questions, debates, and clarifications. Basically, it is an environment where speaking up is embraced. Creating a psychologically safe environment is a critical aspect of being a leader. It allows for everyone’s opinions to matter. We have learned before in previous simulations that it is important to seek every member’s thoughts before making a decision. Thoughtful discussions and more well-rounded decisions are the results of a psychologically safe environment. Without this environment, team members will hold back and hesitate to voice their opinion, which creates an unproductive atmosphere. 

Process skills of a leader means that they actively listen and exert control over the conversation by encouraging everyone to share their information. The process matters, and the biggest process-related initiative leaders can utilize when working with teams is creating a psychologically safe environment. This environment allows for the process to flourish and very meaningful discussions to arise. 

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