• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

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.

Global Dynamics: Stability and Change within the Group System
Global dynamics: Stability and change within the group system

The previous chapter addressed how members, tasks, and tools are combined and coordinated to carry out group projects and fulfill member needs. As group members work together, patterns of interaction emerge and change over time, and the overall group structure is adjusted as tasks are completed, tools are adjusted, and members adapt to one another and to the physical, sociocultural, and organizational contexts in which the group is embedded. Group-level structures and patterns guide and constrain a group's subsequent operations at the local level. Out of this recursive relation, a group's developmental history evolves.

A core aim in the study of dynamic systems is the search for regularities in ...

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