Center Offers Resources
and Atmosphere for Decision Making
by Gail Matsunaga
from Dateline (April 24, 2003)
an ideal world, group decision making can be accomplished in a democratic
fashion, with each member providing his or her input in an unrestrained
Often, however, variables such as personality types
and group dynamics can cause some to feel less forthcoming with
their ideas and suggestions.
The Decision Support Center provides the resources
and atmosphere to assist with the decision-making process, be it
brainstorming, problem identification, idea generation and/or consensus
building through polling and voting on proposed ideas.
Operated and managed by the Faculty Development Center,
the Decision Support Center is funded by the California State University
Chancellor’s Office and is one of only two such facilities
in the CSU system.
Each of the 20 workstations in the center is linked
to a network and equipped with Group-Systems software, developed
for group discussions and decision processes.
Key to the software program’s collaborative
tools is anonymity, according to Sean Pollack, FDC academic technology
consultant. Participants can submit ideas, comments and observations
to the group discussion anonymously – allowing input to succeed,
fail or be amended based on the merit afforded them by the group.
The program, says Pollack, seems to promote “better
quality feedback. It’s able to capture frank participant reaction
and improve the level of buy in from the group. Participation is
almost 100 percent.”
In addition, the program can generate a printed meeting
report, thus, eliminating the need for someone trying to record
The Decision Support Center can be used for such applications
as personnel decisions, curriculum design and redesign, departmental
meetings that discuss or identify problems and solutions, collaborative
writing projects, brainstorming and idea generation for new policies
and focus groups, added Pollack.
This summer, the Pollak Library – whose website
averages more than 2,000 visits a day – will unveil a redesigned
To facilitate the redesign, a 13-member committee
representing most areas of the library met at two different times
at the center.
The initial session, according to Margaret Hogarth,
interim library coordinator, was to “start with the big picture.
Who are our audiences? And then we went into details, like how should
it look. We worked on the results from our first meeting and had
mock-ups ready for our second session.
“I thought it was very effective. We had brainstorming
sessions and everything we wrote down was recorded – it saved
a lot of energy, I think. People feel very strongly about how the
Web page should look.
“This is a safer way to have discussions when
it’s anonymous, especially when the subject is very controversial.”
“I thought it was fantastic,” says Angela
Gee, executive assistant to the executive vice president who facilitated
a brainstorming session with her colleagues.
“It was good in terms of narrowing down our
ideas – ranking them, voting on them. You get something that’s
workable. If you have a large group, you can move to a decision
quicker with group consensus.
“It’s brainstorming in its purest sense.
You don’t have to wait your turn – you can write in
a stream of consciousness.”
Prior to any session, facilitators meet with Pollack
to discuss their meetings – objectives, personnel, expectations
– to fully optimize the facilities. He hopes more faculty
and staff members and administrators will take advantage of the
“There’s a high value on reaching group
consensus,” Pollack says, adding he expects “to see
more people use this with their hiring – discussing candidates.
Those who are often reluctant to speak are usually willing to communicate
and articulate their ideas when using this software.”
For more information about the Decision Support Center,
visit their website.
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