Groups, We All Participate in Them – Pyschology Class Essay
Everyone at some point has or will be in a group of some type. Your basketball team, the cub scouts, being a college student, being an employee, and even your own family are examples of groups. Some groups are good and some are bad. An example of a being apart of a good group is being a law abiding citizen. On the contrary, an example of a bad group would be being an inmate in a penitentiary. Your family group can be both good and bad. But, is it really the group that is bad or good, or is it the actions of the group that decides? One can argue that the single most important aspect of a group is their communication. No matter how good a group and their intentions are if the communication is bad the group will overall be a bad group.
Think of your job and your co-workers is vital to produce a successful business. “The widespread use of decision-making teams in American businesses suggests that organizational leaders believe that groups generally will perform better than
individuals when solving problems and making decisions” (Propp, 1). If you and your co-workers are trying to solve a problem or just simple communicate with one another and you both have different views and beliefs it is very hard to make a good group if neither of you are willing to budge. The Catholic Church is the perfect example. It is seen as a good group, but as times have changed many views have changed as well. The older Catholics might not agree with a lot of the newer changes, but because the younger Catholics are able to communicate well with their elders the church is seen as a good group. Communication will make or break any group during problem solving.
Bruce Tuckman and Aubrey Fisher both have their models on how a group operates in problem solving. Both Tuchman’s and Fisher’s models seemed too simple for a design of how a group operates in problem solving for one man. Marshall Scott Poole felt that there was something more to problem solving. Moving on this feeling he developed his multiple-sequence model. He believed that he had an answer to how a group works in problem solving. He believed that a group develops in problem solving on three different tracks that work together as one. So, did Poole have the right answer? What made his model different from prior models? He felt that his three tracks were much more complex than what Tuckman and Fisher had believed.
“The process of drawing together ideas from individual group members into one list serves important functions across many group activities, including problem solving, decision making, negotiation, planning, and innovation” (Jackson, 1). Poole believed that groups worked on ways to complete their tasks by presenting problems and create possible solutions during their initial discussions. Poole knew that there were many problems that could rise during this part of problem solving. “It is often difficult to coordinate input from several group participants especially as the group size increases” (Corbitt, 1). This problem can be simplified if every member of the group speaks only about the task at hand, does not interrupt other group members while they are speaking, and stay open minded to other group members’ ideas. If the group is able to discuss their task at hand and evaluate possible problems and solutions they will be able to work together on the same page on their task. “Hidden profiles exist when group members individually hold information favoring a low-quality decision but collectively hold information favoring a high-quality decision” (Cruz, 2). If everyone goes into the discussion pulling in different directions and having hidden agendas the task at had will not be completed. Task was the first track on Poole’s problem solving railroad.
If the group is able to come to an agreement on the task stage then the group will move forward to the topic stage. Here, groups are able to move from one topic to another and back again because they are now working together. Group members are now able to work together creating a main topic and various sub-topics. Members become very motivated towards their topics. “Motivated behaviors are the fundamental elements around which we construct a framework for thinking about group process” (Brett, 3). The motivated group members begin to rise to the top and are able to allow other members to create sub-topics, but are able to make sure that these sub-topics do not stray far from the main topic. These members help with allowing the group the ability to jump from topic to topic in the problem solving process. Poole felt that if a group is strong enough in the topic part of his problem solving model then they could move onto the next track of his problem solving railroad.
As the task and topic trains are both heading towards the same destination there is a third train that is running side-by-side with them. The third track in Poole’s problem
solving model (multiple-sequence model) is relation. Here, group members are concerned with relational problems and trying to solve any tensions and conflicts that are in the group. This stage requires patience and understanding. The group members put their trust in other members to the test. “A person’s trust is explained as a function of his or her tendency to trust” (Poole, 3). If a group member does not trust another group member then it creates some tension and conflict in the relation of the group. If the group is able to solve their relational problems then all three trains arrive at their destination: “The Problem Solved Station” (patient pending!).
WHAT WAS POOLE THINKING!?
Many researchers had previously come to the same conclusions on problem solving in groups. These researchers believed that the problem solving in a group goes in a certain sequence. There belief was that it was a sequence that worked like a set of dominos. The sequence was that one stage would follow another. They concluded that the sequence was simply 1,2,3,4,5. Poole did not think that it was that simple.
Poole’s main problem with prior theories was that he believed that there were no stages, but that there were tracks that worked all together in problem solving for a group. He knew that could be set stages, but for the most part that all of the “stages” described by prior theorists were inner twined together a lot more than what was prior believed. He knew that there might be primary tensions during orientation, conflicts do arise, decisions will emerge, and good groups do end up reinforcing fellow group members like the models described by Tuckman and Fisher, but the tracks that a group take in problem solving is not always as predictable. He knew that every group was different and every group’s tracks or stages are different as well. Poole did not necessarily believe in conflict, but he saw these problems as minor break points. While Tuckman and Fisher provided different stages for each conflict that goes on during problem solving in groups, Poole believed that there would be moments that would disrupt the progress of the group and could possible cause the group to repeat earlier tracks rather than having a predetermined time and place for each conflict in problem solving in groups. “Normative, as opposed to informational influence, can have a detrimental effect on decision-making groups” (Hennignsen, 1). Poole believed that by using his tracks could create group members who influence a desire to make better decisions (informational influence) while other models would influence a group member to simple want to maintain harmony in the group or simple agree with everything the group decides because they are wanting the group members to like them (normative influence).
Simple put, Poole did not believe that the pre-determined process of problem solving put forth by Tuckman and Fisher where correct. He believed that group members are affected by various social structures like group norms and peer pressure. Yet, in a some what of a contradiction to his own model, he believed that there may never be a set theory that can predict how a group will operate during their problem solving process. That is why he is very basic with having three tracks that could happen at anytime while being complex by saying that they could happen at anytime during a group’s problem solving process. Poole’s theory is very different compared to previously stated theories on problem solving in a group.
CAN YOU QUESTION POOLE’S ATHORITY?
1. How does your problem solving process work in your groups?
The next time that you are at work and you are presented with a problem that needs to be solved by you and your co0workers write down how you were able to work with or not work with your fellow employees at solving the problem. When put under pressure at work of an immediate deadline to solve a problem, you will be able to see that everything is not as simple and predetermined like Tuckman and Fisher believed. It may not end up exactly like Poole’s model, but it will be very close.
2. What role does communication play in problem solving in your groups?
“There is less consensus, however, on the proper way to assess the role of communication” (Jarboe, 1). Many theorists have tried to determine the exact role that communication plays in problem solving. Some believe that it is the most important part, while others believe that leadership or group cohesiveness play the biggest role. Try to figure out how much communication plays into problem solving in your own groups.
3. Is it more important to have a set leader or just equally powerful group members when trying to solve a problem?
A leader can provide a specific set of rules and give out specific jobs to each member. They can provide a final answer to a question. Equal power can allow every member the chance to have a voice and use their positives to help the group.
Having equal power can cut down on tyrants and having members hold grudges because they feel that the leader is doing things wrong.
4. In what ways can you cut down on conflicts that arise when your group has to solve a problem with an immediate deadline?
Try and think of anything that you can do to get a speedy and great answer to the problem. The key could very well be the small and simple things. If you can go into a situation where your group has an immediate deadline on solving a problem and you already have set up a couple of ways to help your group then your group and the answer it creates will be much better. Conflict is going to happen no matter what. The ones who can control and cut down on the conflict will be able to make things easier.
5. How do you judge the problems that you are presented in your groups? Which ones are hard and which ones are easy?
Try to make a scale for you to help judge which problems in your groups are the hardest and will require the most time spent on them. If you are able to take on the harder problems first then it should make it easier when you transfer to the easier problems. Everyone’s scale of hardest to easiest problems is going to be different. Take into account that your easy may be someone’s hard. If you are able to understand this it will help expose each member’s strengths and weaknesses. Your group will be able to attack the problems head on with the best from each member.
If you wanted to continue with your study on group problem solving there are a couple of places you could look. If you want to see how groups go about making decisions under extreme distress then you could read The Structure of Communication Behavior in Simulated and Actual Crisis Negotiations by Paul J. Taylor and Ian Donald. It explains some of the harder situations that involve group problem solving. Do you want to learn how to better control conflict in group problem solving? If so, read Do Conflict Management Styles Affect Group Decision Making? by Tim Kuhn and Marshall Scott Poole. Every wonder if it is better to have a group attack a problem or individuals? Charles Pavitt addresses the debate in Colloquy: Do Interacting Groups Perform Better Than Aggregates of Individuals? Why We Have to be Reductionists About Group Memory. The paper talks about how groups are able to help remember things that will help later on when they have to solve a problem. What is the most common group? Family. Keith Sanford wrote Expectancies and Communication behavior in marriage: Distinguishing proximal-level effects from distal-level effects which talks about how married couple will problem solve in an entirely different way than any other group. The world is evolving as we speak. The world of tomorrow is going to involve a lot of technology. If you were wanting to know how to relate problem solving in technology Eun-Ju Lee and Clifford Nass wrote Experimental Tests of Normative Group Influence and Representation Effects in Computer-Mediate Communication When Interacting Via Computers Differs From Interacting With Computers. All of these suggested readings will aid with your quest to gain more knowledge on how problem solving in groups works.