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.

Groups as Complex Systems: Overview of the Theory

Groups as complex systems: Overview of the theory

In Chapter 2, we reviewed the history of small group research and proposed that the field needs a broader, more integrative, and more dynamic approach. The goal of our theory is to build on findings and insights from past research while transcending some of the conceptual limitations that have hampered progress in the field. This chapter presents the core of our small group theory, packaged as five propositions that establish its main concepts. The chapter also develops some of the implications of taking dynamics and complexity seriously in thinking about groups. The five chapters of Part II then unfold our theory in detail.

The five propositions include statements of several kinds. ...

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