SAM Facilitator Support Training A Working Theory Of Group Dynamics
Why do we care about groups? • Every group is more than and different from the sum of its parts (Bion, 1961) • Combating the longstanding resistance to reform requires the collective wisdom of teams (Siskin, 2003) • Groups are capable of being “smarter” and making better decisions than any individual member (Surowiscky, 2004)
In other words… • Under the right conditions, a group is capable of making better decisions and coming up with better solutions than any individual member • In the absence of those conditions,a group is capable of making worse decisions and coming up with worse solutions than any individual member
Why is working in groups so hard? Humans are group animals by nature BUT being in groups is hard because each individual member wants to be BOTH autonomous AND part of the group
To manage this fundamental dilemma Groups often “split-off” or marginalize part of the group and adopt behaviors that result in: • Scapegoating • Idealization • Silencing • Blaming • Polarizing • Group Think
The Wisdom of Crowds “…the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise. An intelligent group…does not ask its member to modify their positions in order to let the group reach a decision everyone can be happy with. Instead, it figures out how to use mechanisms…to aggregate and produce collective judgments that represent not what any one person in the group thinks but rather, in some sense, what they all think.” (Surowiecky, 2004)
Conditions necessary for high functioning groups • Diverse points of view • Independence • A mechanism for aggregating collective wisdom such that participants can maintain personal integrity and independence within the context of the group (Surowiscky, 2004)
Core facilitator task • To support groups in working against “splitting” such that the group-as-a-whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts
Group-as-a-whole • Through “splitting,” individuals often speak, act and take on roles on behalf of others in the group • When this occurs, the “group-as-a-whole” participates in allowing members to disown their own point of view and permit others to speak and act for them (Wells, 1980)
Facilitator objective To hold participants within the space of creative tension by balancing: • the containment of their anxieties -- that lead to “splitting” and • the pushing of individual and group learning -- that leads to “wisdom”.
Core facilitator competencies • Identification of teachable/learnable moments • Determination of when/where and how to intervene
Identifying teachable/learnable moments • Listen and observe carefully • Be aware of your own physical and emotional responses • Read patterns in the environment
Determining where/when/how to intervene • Let participants struggle with and own the issue • Attend to process AND results • Maximize leverage by identifying and acting on moments of convergence
Beware of…. • Conflict avoidance • Facilitator co-dependence • Fear of direct teaching
Sources Bion, W. R. (1961). Experiences in Groups. London: Routledge. Siskin, L. S. (2001). The hard work of transforming high schools. http://www.gatesfoundation.org/nr/downloads/ed/researchevaluation/ChicagoRevisIVM.pdf Surowiecki, J. (2004). The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdowm shapes business, economies, societies and nations. New York: Doubleday. Wells, L. (1990). The group as a whole: a systemic socioanalytic perspective on interpersonal and group relations. In J. Gillette & M. McCollom (Eds.), Groups in Context: A New Perspective on Group Dynamics (pp. 50-85). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.