Uncovering Hidden Profiles: advocacy in team decision making

Document Type



hidden profiles; decision making; devil's advocacy; norms; conflict; teams; dissent; team working

Identifier Data



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Publication Source

Management Decision, 51(2), 321-340


– Research shows that teams often fail to surface and use unique information to evaluate decision alternatives. Under a condition known as the hidden profile, each member uniquely possesses a critical clue needed to uncover the superior solution. Failure to share and adequately evaluate this information will result in poor decision quality. The aim of this paper is to examine the impact of the devil's advocacy technique on the decision quality of hidden profile teams.

– In order to mitigate this team decision‐making bias, the present study utilizes experimental research to examine the impact of the devil's advocacy technique on the decision quality of hidden profile teams.

– Results show that devil's advocacy groups achieved higher decision quality than groups under free discussion. However, devil's advocacy teams also had higher levels of affective conflict. As a result, while they selected the best solution, devil's advocacy introduced conditions that may hinder the solution's implementation
Research limitations/implications
– Similar experiments with advocacy techniques suggest that the positive effect on decision quality found here may be reduced in the presence of stronger hidden profiles.

Practical implications
– While the devil's advocacy technique has the potential to uncover hidden profiles and improve group decision making, the paper recommends that managers use this technique only in teams with strong critical thinking norms that foster constructive conflict.

– To the authors' knowledge, no study has examined the impact of devil's advocacy in groups where information is not shared equally prior to deliberations.