Complex Problem Solving in Small Group
a process based approach

Research background –

  • Team cooperation is crucial to the success of complex problem solving. For decades, small group researches have been concerned with the question of which factors determine effective cooperation and problem solving in groups. However, previous research results deliver no clear assertions about the determinants of effectiveness in groups. This research aims to study how to improve the group effectiveness in dealing with complex problem solving.

Research method –

  • 51 students were divided into 17 groups (3 person each group) and participated in our Laboratory experiment, using computer-simulated dynamic business simulation (SYNTEX). In order to enhance the reliability and validity of the study, the experiment included two sessions, with around 3 hours in each session. A group interview as well as a questionnaire survey was conducted at the end of each experiment on work satisfaction. The experiments were all completely video-recorded and the whole interview process was fully voice-recorded.

Summary of key results –

  • Conclusions made from case study about key differences between the high group effectiveness and low group effectiveness are as follow: firstly, in the information searching dimension, high group effectiveness group searched more and deeper information. Secondly, in the cognitive analysis dimension, high group effectiveness group think more deeply and logically. Thirdly, the decisions made by high group effectiveness group were based on the cognitive analysis while the decisions of the other group were not consist with their cognitive analysis. The last but not least, high group effectiveness groups had more group dynamics. Their decisions were made by consulting with each other and they were more likely to achieve the agreement. On the way around, in the low group effectiveness group the decisions almost made by one person alone.
  • In the second part, we discussed about the evaluation and insight differences between the two groups. The results are as follow: (1) high group effectiveness groups had more positive feeling about their problem solving behavior; (2) low group effectiveness groups got more insights, compared with high group effectiveness groups, but the frequencies in the same dimension were lower.