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.
Chapter 8: Metamorphosis: Endings and Transformations
Metamorphosis: Endings and Transformations
Some groups are ephemeral creations that form, operate briefly, and then disband. Other groups are expected to last indefinitely, with new members replenishing the group as established members are expelled, resign, or die. Many of these groups also dissolve eventually. Some groups are created, expire, and are resurrected in cycles. Some groups go through a long decline before disbanding, whereas others cease operations while operating at their peak. The first section of this chapter discusses some characteristic patterns of death and transformation and identifies underlying dimensions that help distinguish, for example, between dissolution and collapse, expiration and completion as ways that groups come to an end. We then turn to a detailed exploration of the dynamics underlying these ...