Sunday, April 16, 2006

Curious about Group Dynamics - How Do They Work for the Groups to Which You Belong?

I'm going back to the small folk clubs. I haven't outgrown them yet. For me this is like a little sneak preview of what the possibilities are, what the problems are, what people ask of you, what happens within the dynamics of your group.” - Shawn Colvin

The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals.” - Rensis Likert

First of all, I want you to know that I am a “group” person. Yes, when I am working on my own, I am disciplined and motivated. But, when part of a group, I have even more energy, experience more enjoyment and the time just flies by! I have always enjoyed group fitness classes - both taking and teaching - more than working out on the machines or at home alone.

I am also a joiner of organizational groups where I tend to volunteer to become more involved than just being a member. The Internet has added to my group involvement by offering discussion groups and lists with members from all over the world. So, as you can tell, I love groups.

When considering, however, the dynamics of different groups, I have noticed many idiosyncrasies. Groups tend to develop definite personalities - some friendly, welcoming and interactive, while others can be tight-lipped, critical and extremely rule oriented. Even though Toastmasters International is an incredible organization, when I was active, I was struck by how different the personalities of the many clubs were. I always urge those thinking of joining a club to visit many until they find the one where they feel the most comfortable.

Some other important thoughts about groups:

  • A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
  • If somebody comes to a neighborhood coffee hour, or goes to a discussion group, and they have a discussion, I do think that people really walk away with a real understanding of the issues.” - Mike Lowry
  • Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” - Vince Lombardi

I find the group dynamics of discussion groups and lists on the Internet to be very similar to the group dynamics of live in person-to-in person groups. There are those members who are almost invisible - lurkers. They seldom make posts, but we know they are there. Then there are those who post five to fifteen times a day - where do they get the time? There are some who are downright rude and others who are a delight.

My overall feeling about groups is that as long as there are enough people who want the group to succeed, it does. When there are disagreements and criticism they are handled and usually forgotten. And, if I don’t feel good about a group or that I don’t have a lot to contribute positively, I drop out. There are plenty of others to join.

A few more thoughts for you to chew on:

  • In restaurants, you never have enough money, you're taking a very diverse group of people and building them into a team with a common purpose.” - John Hickenlooper
  • My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” - Indira Gandhi
  • Art and money are closely related. Try sitting down with a group of artists and ask them what's on their mind. Very quickly the topic shifts to money. And it can be very hard to get them off that subject.” - Dave Winer
  • A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.” - Fred A. Allen

Tell me, are you a group person? And, how do you feel about group dynamics?