Why studying about teams is important?
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Studying the principles of team functioning is important for several reasons. First, humans are highly social creatures, and many of their actions are either rooted in or derived from interaction with peers. Second, activities and processes within the group may offer insights into the qualities of individuals and may be used for estimating the performance and other metrics. The former interests me the most, as I think that such insights will be a valuable addition to the individual approach at the latter stages of project management. I also expect that at least some of the principles learned in the course could be applied outside the professional domain to improve communication, avoid misunderstanding, and minimize conflicts.
Theory of group development
As an example of group development, I suggest an experiment organized by my fellow students and me. We intended to test the feasibility of a project structure that would involve an absolute minimum of vertical hierarchy. For that, we organized a small study project with a diverse set of tasks and several goals that would theoretically require a high level of coordination. I was assigned the role of a leader. During the dependence phase, immediately after I posted the list of tasks, I was surprised to see the relative lack of a dependence-flight response. The actions of participants suggested that the majority of members are dependents since they were hesitant to come forward with suggestions and instead turned to me for further directions (likely because I was the only one associating with authority).
Simultaneously, strong interdependence could be observed from the start, although it could be at least partially attributed to the fact that the group was formed mostly of like-minded people with similar interests in the experiment. One individual was vocal in expressing his dissatisfaction with the lack of progress, which suggests his interdependent nature. However, the group eventually picked up the pace and was able to achieve most (not all) outlined objectives. It should be pointed out that the whole experience was artificially set up, which was known to all participants. Besides, the participation was voluntary, securing a high degree of interdependence. Therefore, while the results were favorable (the early onset of catharsis and consensual validation subphases), they could be anticipated, and the prevalence of dependents on the initial phase is the only unexpected result.
Why it is important to understand scapegoating when you are leading or participating in a group?
Scapegoating is prominent in today’s society, in part because it is valuable to media due to its attention-grabbing qualities. One of the recent examples of scapegoating that was featured in the news is Alexandre Bissonnette, the suspected perpetrator of a mosque shooting in Quebec. Bissonnette is a far-right white supremacist, which raises the probability of ideological and political motives behind the crime. These qualities are explicitly (and understandably) decried in modern society, so there is little wonder that the perpetrator was portrayed in the media in the most antagonistic manner. However, we should not forget that such attitude, as suggested by Gemmill, can be partially driven by the impulse of projecting the suppressed desires and emotional negativity. In this particular case, the social dysfunction is associated with xenophobic attitudes and hostility towards foreign groups. I’d like to add that in this case negativity bias probably plays at least a minor role. Thus, I believe scapegoating allows for an assessment of the group’s weaknesses as they become prominent upon explicit projection. More importantly, it allows evaluating the self-awareness capacity of group members based on the perception of scapegoats and peers.