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Research Highlights

The Best Decisions Include Different Perspectives and are Made with Power

Joe Magee_article

Neither power nor perspective-taking alone achieves the optimal or fairest outcome when it comes to decision making in a group context.

Managers who consider the views and feelings of others are likely to make better decisions than those who focus only on their power to make the decision, according to new research by NYU Stern Associate Professor of Management and Organizations Joe C. Magee.

In “Acceleration With Steering: The Synergistic Benefits of Combining Power and Perspective-Taking,” Professor Magee and co-authors Adam D. Galinsky, Diana Rus, Naomi B. Rothman and Andrew R. Todd investigate the interplay of power and perspective-taking and their role in distinguishing good decision makers from poor ones.

Neither power nor perspective-taking alone achieves the optimal or fairest outcome when it comes to decision making in a group context, Professor Magee explained: “Power is a psychological accelerator, propelling people toward their goals; however, these goals are often egocentrically focused. Perspective-taking is a psychological steering wheel that helps people navigate their social worlds; however, perspective-taking needs a catalyst – in this case power – to be effective.”

By designing experiments that tested the effect of perspective-taking on power, the authors found that in announcing a layoff, for example, leaders who were able to gain personal insight into others’ interests communicated with greater candor and sensitivity. Similarly, they found that decision-making teams that included one powerful member who focused on other members’ perspectives generated more sharing and eliciting of critical information, and ultimately more accurate decisions.

Organizations might be improved, Professor Magee suggested, less by trying to flatten hierarchy and more by reminding those in power to make an effort to consider their employees’ points of view: “Power with perspective-taking allows people to reach their destination without crashing into others along the way.”