On Investigating the Cognitive Complexity of Designing the Group Decision Process
Constantin-Bala ZAMFIRESCU1, Luminita DUŢĂ2, Barna IANTOVICS3
1 Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Faculty of Engineering,
Department of Computer Science and Automatic Control,
Emil Cioran 17, Sibiu, Romania
2 University Valahia of Targoviste, Faculty of Electrical Engineering,
Department of Computer Science and Automation,
Unirii Ave., 18-20, Târgovişte, Romania
3 Petru Maior University of Targu Mures, Faculty of Sciences and Letters,
Department of Mathematics and Informatics,
Nicolae Iorga 1, Targu Mures, Romania
Abstract: The paper investigates the cognitive complexity associated with the design of group decision processes (GDP) in relation with some basic contextual factors such us task complexity, users’ creativity and problem space complexity. The analysis is done by conducting a socio-simulation experiment for an envisioned software tool that acts as collaborative environment for the GDP design. The simulation results provide some insights on how to engineer context-adaptable functionalities aiming at minimizing the cognitive complexity associated with the GDP design. Although the research is carried out for a specific case, namely the GDSS technology, the results may be easily replicated for any sort of collaborative working environment where the cognitive complexity associated with its effective use is playing an important role.
Keywords: Group decision support systems, facilitation, social simulation.
CITE THIS PAPER AS:
Constantin-Bala ZAMFIRESCU, Luminita DUŢĂ, Barna IANTOVICS, On Investigating the Cognitive Complexity of Designing the Group Decision Process, Studies in Informatics and Control, ISSN 1220-1766, vol. 19 (3), pp. 263-270, 2010.
Group Decision Support System (GDSS) is an interactive computer-based environment that supports concerted and coordinated team effort towards completion of joint tasks . This collaborative environment is made up from a collection of highly configurable tools (i.e., brainstorming, voting and ranking, multi-criteria analysis, action planning, agenda setting etc.) which require a high level of expertise for an effective use to support complex decisions . The strong relationship between the GDP outcome and the presence of a skilful facilitator to properly configure the available tools is thoroughly presented in many field studies of GDSS research . Nevertheless, the presence of a scarce resource, such as a skilful facilitator, rapidly becomes the most demanding challenge in the wide spread of GDSS technology in organizations. To reduce the dependence on the facilitator, the participant-driven GDSS was proposed as a promising direction to leverage the skills and abilities of each group member . However, this approach is highly constrained by the cognitive complexity associated with the construction, coordination and execution of GDP by inexperienced users.
To overcome the problem of cognitive complexity Briggs and de Vreede  have introduced the thinkLet (TL) concept, defined as a discrete decomposition unit that integrates a specific software tool, its configuration and a script specifying the proper usage of the tool. Consequently a TL may be considered a predefined interaction protocol among the GDSS’s users, an interaction mediated and structured by a tool from the GDSS software package. As a result, the GDP is structured as a flow of discrete interactions, each of them being reflected in the specific TL that codifies the essential knowledge to execute collaborative processes.
The paper investigates the complexity associated with the GDP design in relation with some basic contextual factors such us the problem complexity, the users’ creativity and the problem space complexity.
The remaining part of the paper is organized as it follows. The next section describes the main components of an envisioned collaborative software tool that act as a collaborative working environment for the GDP design. These components are implemented and tested in a socio-simulation experiment described in Section 3. As in many field studies of GDSS research, the experimental results show clear self-organizing capabilities as regards the longitudinal use of the collaborative environment to design the GDP, but simultaneously a high dependability of performance on the contextual factor. From the engineering standpoint of constructing purposeful facilitation tools for e-meetings, these results are discussed and concluded in the last section.
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