• 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.

Contextual Dynamics: Adaptation of the Group to Multiple Embedding Contexts
Contextual dynamics: Adaptation of the group to multiple embedding contexts

Adaptation is the patterning of change at the dynamic interchange between a group and its multiple embedding contexts. Group members may respond to past, present, or anticipated future changes in the group's environment by altering the group's structure, its goals, and its behavior. A group may change the composition of members, tools, and tasks, change the networks that link these elements together, or change the characteristic pattern of activity in these networks. Outsiders in a group's embedding context may also intervene directly to change the group. Managers in an organization, for example, may add new members to a team, update its technology, or cancel one of ...

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