Article

Spreadthink: Explaining Ineffective Groups

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Abstract

Extended testing of the performance of small groups working with complex issues has revealed the pervasive existence of a phenomenon which is here named ‘Spreadthink’. This phenomenon accounts for worldwide ineffectiveness of groups of people trying to work together to resolve complex issues under conditions that neither recognize nor compensate for Spreadthink. Since Spreadthink is an immobilizing phenomenon, it deserves widespread attention and appropriate compensatory action by leaders, managers and administrators wherever complex issues are under serious consideration in organizations. Concurrent with the testing that uncovered and documented Spreadthink, measures that can be taken to overcome the effects of Spreadthink have been tested. The evidence that would prove the effectiveness of these measures is equal in extent, but much less quantitative in nature than the evidence that supports the presence of Spreadthink. Nevertheless, a significant case can be made to the effect that if Spreadthink can be overcome in a particular situation, the system of management called interactive management provides the capability to overcome it in that situation.

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... GCs categorized their factors into 10 clusters whereas TCs categorized their factors into 9 clusters (Table 2; for detailed comparisons, refer to ). With a Spreadthink (ST) of 47%, the level of participants' disagreement was slightly higher than the expected average of 40% (Warfield 1995). In Warfield's words, the participants' views of the problématique of Cyprus' economic integration are "spread all over the map" (Warfield 1995, p. 5). ...
... co-laboratories organized in 1995, the following scientific measures were applied: Spreadthink, Situational Complexity Index, and Erroneous Priorities Effect. Spreadthink (ST) identifies the level of the stakeholders' disagreement on the most important factors to a problem and is defined as ST = (V -5)/(N -5) × 100(Warfield 1995). If all participants choose the same five factors as the most important factors to the problem, ST will be zero. ...
... Therefore, the higher the ST, the higher is the level of disagreement among the participants. The average level of disagreement is 40%(Warfield 1995).The Situational Complexity Index (SCI) demonstrates the complexity degree of a problem situation and is defined as SCI = DK(N -7)/R(R -1) (Christakis and Bausch 2006), with D = (V -5)/(N -5) V = number of ideas receiving one or more votes N = number of ideas generated K = number of connections in the map R = number of ideas in the map. ...
Article
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This paper reports the results of a series of three co-laboratories organized by the Civil Society Dialogue Project (between July and October 2007) that aimed at bringing together Turkish-speaking and Greek-speaking Cypriot citizens to share their experiences and work together to create a citizens' platform, as well as to devise an action plan for a reunited Cyprus. Twenty-one business and economist stakeholder representatives with diverse perspectives and experience participated in three successive bi-communal co-laboratories focused on the issue of economic integration in Cyprus, which was identified by Cypriot peace pioneers as one of the main causes of the perceived widening of the gap between the two divided communities in Cyprus. They invested more than 325 hours person-hours. The purpose of the co-laboratories was to support the dialogue of a motivated group of economists and business experts representing both communities. The co-laboratories provided space for exchanging ideas as well as exploring future options and goals, besides diagnosing current problems in economic integration and the free movement of goods and services in Cyprus. More specifically, the economic integration co-laboratories aimed at envisioning the ideal, desired situation, defining the current problematic economic situation on the island, and exploring the influences between alternative actions that could improve the current situation. The co-laboratories were organized using the Structured Dialogic Design process within the context of a rich web-based communication environment. We report the results from all three projects.
... We follow this with a review of a more expansive set of constitutive definitions from (Jackson, 2000(Jackson, , 2003 which are positioned within the four Burrell and Morgan paradigms (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). We then explore relevant ideas from the field of Systems Engineering (Warfield, 1995;. From this review we attempt to generate a more parsimonious definition and to explore whether there is a suitable constitutive definition for PSMs in general. ...
... Emerging from the systems science community, Warfield coined the term "spreadthink", a neologism to label the phenomenon of groups ineffectually dealing with complex issues (Warfield, 1995). We have interpreted Warfield's definition as describing the behaviour of groups dealing with problems to do with complexity and pluralism in the absence of a suitable of PSM, and therefore provides useful discrimination in our set theoretic approach. ...
... !needs to be observed for the relationship !"# ! ≡ !"# to be evaluated true, our set-theoretic approach enables us to use a large data set to refine our criteria and move away from judgment to a more objective assessment, 5. To avoid a separate determination of appropriate problem context e.g. that (!") pertains, the set [!] must also include definitional statements that relate to context i.e. as they do in (Warfield, 1995;. ...
Article
When we use a PSM what is it we are actually doing? An answer to this question would enable the PSM community to considerably enlarge the available source of case studies by the inclusion of examples of non-codified PSM use. We start from Checkland’s own proposal for a “constitutive definition” of SSM, which originated from trying to answer the question of knowing when a claim of SSM use was legitimate. By extending this idea to a generic constitutive definition for all PSMs leads us to propose a self-consistent labelling schema for observed phenomena arising from PSMs in action. This consists of a set of testable propositions, which, through observation of putative PSM use, can be used to assess validity of claims of PSM use. Such evidential support for the propositions as may be found in putative PSM use can then make it back into a broader axiomatic formulation of PSMs through the use of a set-theoretic approach, which enables our method to scale to large data sets. The theoretical underpinning to our work is in causal realism and middle range theory. We illustrate our approach through the analysis of three case studies drawn from engineering organisations, a rich source of possible non-codified PSM use. The combination of a method for judging cases of non-codified PSM use, sound theoretical underpinning, and scalability to large data sets, we believe leads to a demystification of PSMs and should encourage their wider use.
... Research on the effectiveness of groups has identified some ways in which groups may work less well (e.g. Warfield, 1995). One issue which comes up concerning collaborative learning in general is that some members may get a 'free ride' (intentionally or not), becoming dependent on the other group members (Meirink et al., 2010), and social skills may need to be built into a course to pre-empt this (Johnson & Johnson, 1989). ...
... Research on effective/ineffective groups shows some practices (such as co-regulation, co-learning, exploratory talk) which might enable and support greater autonomy on the part of individual learners, as well as others (e.g. 'spreadthink' (Warfield, 1995), 'storming' or cumulative talk) which may tend to close off such possibilities. Different learners (e.g. higher or lower achievers) could reflect upon their experiences of collaboration and sense of learning and autonomy, to help identify what they had learned from working in a group or pair, and how this happened (Tassinari, 2013). ...
Book
This book seeks to expand the research agendas on autonomy in language learning and teaching in diverse contexts, by examining the present landscape of established studies, identifying research gaps and providing practical future research directions. Based on empirical studies, it explores research agendas in five emerging domains: language learning and teaching in developing countries; social censure and teacher autonomy; learner autonomy and groups; learner autonomy and digital practice; and finally, learner autonomy and space. In doing so, it sheds new light on the impact of digital media, group dynamics and the application of ecological perspectives on learner autonomy. The contributors present a novel reconsideration of new learning affordances, and their discussion of spatial dimensions provides much needed expansion in the field. This book will have international appeal and provide an invaluable resource for students and scholars of second language learning and higher education, as well as teacher educators. Alice Chik is Senior Lecturer in Educational Studies at Macquarie University, Australia. Naoko Aoki is Professor of the Graduate School of Letters, Osaka University, Japan, where she teaches Japanese as a second language pedagogy. Richard Smith is a Reader and Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, UK. Chapter 2 of this book is open access under a CC BY 4.0 license via link.springer.com.
... Research on the effectiveness of groups has identified some ways in which groups may work less well (e.g. Warfield, 1995). One issue which comes up concerning collaborative learning in general is that some members may get a 'free ride' (intentionally or not), becoming dependent on the other group members (Meirink et al., 2010); and social skills may need to be built into a course to pre-empt this (Johnson & Johnson, 1989). ...
... Research on effective/ineffective groups shows some practices (such as coregulation, co-learning, exploratory talk) which might enable and support greater autonomy on the part of individual learners, as well as others (e.g. 'spreadthink' (Warfield, 1995), 'storming' or cumulative talk) which may tend to close off such possibilities. Different learners (e.g. higher or lower achievers) could reflect upon their experiences of collaboration and sense of learning and autonomy, to help identify what they had learned from working in a group or pair, and how this happened (Tassinari, 2013). ...
Chapter
Working in groups is a popular teaching strategy associated with communicative, task-based and other approaches in ELT. Learner autonomy has also become an influential concept and has been linked to groupwork. However, ideas about how learner autonomy (often seen as a set of skills in an individual) might develop through groupwork have tended to develop by practice and intuition more than through research. This chapter will consider some relevant questions about learner autonomy and groupwork, for example, individual autonomy in a group, learner support, autonomy development, group autonomy and conditions for group and individual autonomy. It will also discuss research approaches which have proved useful in other fields and how these might be applied in language learning and teaching contexts.
... • There must be agreed limits on the scope of the topics under discussion; spread think [36] must be avoided. ...
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... Collective decision making based on attempted consensus or explicit voting is fraught with subjective representation and cognitive bias. The well-known problems of groupthink [59,60] and lesser-known group cognitive biases of spreadthink and clanthink [61] are pervasive in group decision making and yet unrecognized by participants. Groupthink is a phenomenon that significantly affects the individual and group self-perception that consensus has occurred. ...
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... The complex relationships among the forms of higher-order thinking have yet to be examined satisfactorily " . (p. 5) Twentieth-century experimenters have documented how dysfunctional human performance when acting alone, in groups, and in organizations can mar a successful merger of the critical and constructive attitudes (Allison, 1971; Argyris, 1982; Boulding, 1966; Janis, 1982; Simon, 1974; Warfield, 1974 Warfield, , 1995). Some psychologists have emphasised the need for training both critical and constructive attitudes, labelling the merger 'productive thinking' (Wertheimer, 1959). ...
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... When we ask them to choose, after they undergo such a process, they rarely choose their own ideas. Moreover, as Warfield (1995) has shown, we have mathematical measures of their agreement/disagreement. For example, if we give two votes to each person and everyone chooses his/her own ideas, their 'Spreadthink' will be 100%; i.e., their ideas would literally spread over the whole space of ideas. ...
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The paper exemplifies why the capacity of a community of stakeholders to implement a plan of action effectively depends strongly on the true engagement of the stakeholders in designing it and that disregarding their participation is not only unethical, but also any plans made are bound to fail (Law of Requisite Action). As a layman's introduction to the science of structured dialogic design, the author uses a helicopter view of the organisation of an interactive workshop to highlight limitations of present-day implementations of dialogues and introduces the reader to the concepts of Spreadthink, Groupthink, erroneous priorities, laws and axioms of the science.
... This could mean that the subject under discussion was indeed complex and required dialogue to unravel its complexity with a view to considering ways of addressing the challenges as observed/understood. The extent that individuals in a group do not agree on what are the most important sub-issues, and in general not have a majority view on the merits of any of the many sub-issues is a quantifiable psychosocial phenomenon called Spreadthink ( Warfield, 1995 ), and in the case of our project it is equal to 63%. ...
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This article proposes the importance of admitting into the repertoire of Problem Structuring Methods for (Community) Operational Research, the methodology called Structured Dialogical Design (SDD). Problem Structuring Methods are described in the literature as facilitating transparent and participative ways of formulating and systemically modelling problems with a view to participants’ co-defining alternative futures. We reflect upon the contribution of SDD as lying in its appreciation of “third phase science” and discuss links to other deliberative processes. We indicate why SDD can be classed as “problem structuring” despite the near absence of publicisation in the Operational Research (OR) literature to date. We discuss distinct contributions that the SDD offers to the OR world and indicate how it strengthens and extends Community OR, contributes to Critical Systems Thinking in OR, and offers new mathematical approaches that the Community OR practitioners may wish to consider using. By way of illustration, we showcase the “European Initiative” as an aspect of a large-scale project across five geographical regions funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund, in conjunction with the Future Worlds Center (2016-2018). It engaged as stakeholders five cohorts of youth pioneers concerned with formulating options for re-inventing democracy in the digital age.
... The complexity index defined as SCI = DK(N -7)/R(R -1) The Spreadthink defined: ST = (V -5)/(N -5) 9 100 (Warfield 1995; modifications were made by the last author of this paper) ...
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... 2007, 2008) and a group in Australia focusing on Democracy and The Enlightenment run by the same KMT with co-laboratories also applying a combination of synchronous and asynchronous events the number of factors was 64, 82 and 49, respectively. From 81 applications during the decade of 1980, the average number of observations needed to adequately describe a complex problem is 64 (Warfield 1995). The increased number of factors in the context of this peace process revival co-laboratory can be attributed to two factors. ...
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... Broome and Fulbright also noted that many scholars have traditionally downplayed the importance of methodology in group problem-solving. However, as noted by Warfield (1976Warfield ( , 1995Warfield ( , 2004, there are a host of human cognitive and behavioral limitations that can be ameliorated through methodology, and the development of methodologies that support group problem-solving is very important for the future of PASSE. ...
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... Since collective intelligence is usually defined as "the ability of a group to solve more problems than its individual members" (Heylighen, 1999), and because we lack a way to exploit the total intelligence of a group of individuals, we can deduce that there are certain obstacles that make it hard for members of a team to coordinate, align and/or process their thoughts. Group deliberations, for example, usually suffer from certain pathologies such as Groupthink (Whyte, 1952), Spreadthink (Warfield, 1995) and Clanthink (Warfield & Teigen, 1993). Other barriers include individual cognitive limitations and the lack of functional connections and communication among collaborators. ...
Chapter
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... From this systems theoretic starting point, the following section focuses on how systems theory can be used to inform problem formulation. Any two different perspectives or models about a system will reveal truths about that systems are neither entirely independent nor entirely compatible Law of requisite hierarchy (Aulin 1982; Aulin-Ahmavaara 1979; Klir 1991) The weaker in average are the regulatory abilities and the larger the uncertainties of available regulators, the more hierarchy is needed in the organization of regulation and control to attain the same result, if possible at all Law of requisite parsimony (Miller 1956; Simon 1974; Warfield 1995) Human short-term brain activity (memory) is incapable of dealing or recalling more than seven plus or minus two items Law of requisite saliency (Boulding 1966; Hester and Adams 2014; Warfield 1999) The factors that will be considered in a system design are seldom of equal importance. Instead, there is an underlying logic awaiting discovery in each system design that will reveal the saliency of these factors Law of requisite variety (Ashby 1956; Clemson 1984; Flood and Carson 1993) The control achieved by a given regulatory sub-system over a given system is limited by: ...
Chapter
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... Spreadthink is a measure of disagreement among the participants ( Warfield, 1995 ), and it ranged from 32 to 59 (46.3 ± 8.4) with relatively small deviations. This reflects the fact that the participants invested enough time in the dialogues to converge to a satisfactory amount of agreement. ...
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Systems theory and design thinking both share a common orientation to the desired outcomes of complex problems, which is to effect highly-leveraged, well-reasoned, and preferred changes in situations of concern. Systems thinking (resulting from its theoretical bias) promotes the understanding of complex problem situations independently of solutions, and demonstrates an analytical bias. Design disciplines demonstrate an action-oriented or generative bias toward creative solutions, but design often ignores deep understanding as irrelevant to future-oriented change. While many practitioners believe there to be compatibility between design and systems theory, the literature shows very few examples of their resolution in theoretical explanation or first principles. This work presents a reasoned attempt to reconcile the shared essential principles common to both fundamental systems theories and design theories, based on meta-analyses and a synthesis of shared principles. An argument developed on current and historical scholarly perspectives is illuminated by relevant complex system cases demonstrating the shared principles. While primarily oriented to complex social systems, the shared systemic design principles apply to all complex design outcomes, product and service systems, information systems, and social organizational systems.
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A survey of INCOSE Fellows revealed near-unanimous agreement that system engineering competency assessment must be improved. Based on the principle that prudent selection authorities first establish selection criteria the Fellows committee authorized a volunteer project to devise a selection guide for choosing among competency assessment instruments and/or highlighting improvement opportunities in current ones. This paper presents project results, notably, recommended criteria and method that will help choose an appropriate candidate competency instrument and several recommended fallibility tests that other interested parties are encouraged to perform in order to make this selection guide even more fit for purpose.
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With respect to the problem of assessing level of experts based on the linguistic assessment matrices inform of preference information, an analytic method is proposed to define the linguistic assessment matrices with their natures revealed. Then, by defining the deviation distance matrices between individual and grouped experts' assessment decision matrices and positive/negative ideal points of alternative set, an analytic method is given to assessment level of experts based on TOPSIS (technique for order preference by similarity to ideal solution). A numerical example is given to illustrate the feasibility of the proposed approach which will results in more reliable and credible decision-making and can be taken as an alternative way to assess expert level.
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Conference Paper
It is an important research subject to carry on the classification to the level of judgment experts or experts' judgments in the group decision and analysis. With respect to the problem of the level of experts' judgment to the preference information of numerical decision matrix in the group decision making, an analytic method is proposed Firstly, the relevant characters of numerical decision matrix and group consistency are analyzed. Then, based on defining the educe matrix of numerical decision matrix are given by each expert, a taxis approach to judgment experts' level are given. Meanwhile, based on defining the fuzzy relation matrix between the two experts, classified approaches to judgment experts' level are given. Finally, a numerical example is given to illustrate the efficacy and rationality of arithmetic.
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