What are groups? How do they behave? Arrow, McGrath, and Berdahl answer these questions by developing a general theory of small groups as complex systems. Basing their theory on concepts distilled from general systems theory, dynamical systems theory, and complexity and chaos theory, they explore groups as adaptive, dynamic systems that are driven by interactions among group members as well as between the group and its embedding contexts. In addition, they consider not only the group’s members and their distribution of attributes, but also the group’s tasks and technology in order to understand how those members, tasks, and tools are intertwined, coordinated, and adjusted. Throughout the book, the authors focus our attention on relationships among people, tools, and tasks that are activated by a combination of individual and collective purposes and goals that change and evolve as the group interacts over time.

Some Research Strategies for Studying Groups as Complex Systems

Some research strategies for studying groups as complex systems

In light of the difficult issues raised in the previous chapter, it is clear that we need to rethink our theoretical and methodological preferences and practices as group researchers and identify which strategies will be most useful for studying groups as complex systems. The first section of this chapter identifies three underused research strategies that we think are potentially helpful for our quest to understand groups as complex systems. The next three sections discuss in more detail these three research strategies that hold special promise for research along the lines suggested by our theory: experimental simulations, comparative field studies, and computational modeling.

Research Strategies Useful for the Study of ...

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