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.

Local Dynamics: Coordinating Members, Tasks, and Tools

Local dynamics: Coordinating members, tasks, and tools

As a group assembles a network of connections that allows it to operate—the focus of formation—it also begins to operate as a collective entity. Some groups have a distinct beginning stage during which the focus is formation. Other groups set to work immediately, even as they are assembling a network or activating a detailed blueprint for the group. Similarly, groups may complete their projects and then unravel, or they may continue to work on group projects and attend to member needs even as the network that holds them together dissolves. Operations, the mode covered in Chapters 5 through 7, is conceptually distinct from the processes of beginning and ending, even though the ...

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