Week 1 Hirokawa Part I: The Nature of Groups

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Week 1 Hirokawa et al. Part I: The Nature of Groups By Sherri L. Ter Molen

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Learning Objectives To identify different types of small groups To explain the role of theory in small group communication To assess the benefits & challenges of working in small groups online 1

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You ask, “I've already taken 1,000 Communication classes. Why should I learn about working in groups online?” 2 When I first started working, people had to travel on business all the time. Due to the immense cost of private jets and airline tickets, organizations now depend heavily on digital technology to facilitate small group communication instead of face-to-face (f2f) meetings. First of all, what is a small group?

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This is a small group. Small groups are comprised of 3 to 15 humans. Which of these groups would not be considered a small group? This is a small group because it’s comprised of 3 to 15 humans. Hirokawa et. al state on p. 1 that small groups are comprised of 3-15 people. Fish (sadly) aren’t considered people. The Nature of Groups 3 Click each image above for the answer.

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Uh, oh! I think I’ve upset someone. Wait! Why can’t fish form a small group? What makes humans so special? 4

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Good question, Felix the Fish! Hirokawa et. al state that a small group must have a shared purpose. Bees work together to manufacture honey. Beavers work together to build dams. Wolves hunt in packs. 5

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H-U-M-A-N-S! Go humans! Only humans express creativity & massive task variety! Have you ever seen giraffes perform in a jazz ensemble or a small group of flamingos tap dance? No? Whereas squirrels are sometimes creative when they work together to steal food from bird feeders, humans in small groups perform music and dance, develop new technologies, & form football and hockey teams. Talk about creativity & variety! Wow! 6

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Check out the definition of general systems theory on p. 3 of your book! General Systems Theory 7 No, seriously. Don’t just click through the PowerPoint. Go back, & re-read the definition. Warning! Don’t continue without reading the definition of general systems theory on p.3!

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Your turn! Which is the best example of general systems theory? 8

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Got it? Whenever the word theory gets thrown around, students get nervous. Don’t let general systems theory freak you out! Here is another example. A local Boy Scout Group has its own characteristics because its members prefer dirt biking over camping. However the Boy Scout group also reflects the identity of the national organization since the boys wear the Boy Scout uniforms and have to complete tasks to earn badges. The group is both independent but also interrelated. 9

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Birds of a feather… 10 Perhaps your family is a small group. Perhaps you serve on the executive board of your sorority or participate on a fencing team. When we belong to groups, we influence the groups because of our unique personalities, experiences, and talents. The groups also affect who we are. This is called interdependence. We can often identify members of our group because we dress similarly or use the same jargon. This is known as perceived boundaries.

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…flock & achieve together! A team of architects designs a skyscraper. Each architect contributes her or his expertise. Together, these architects generate synergy! Synergy means that a system is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, working in groups can achieve greater results than if each person works independently! 1 + 1 does not necessarily = 2! 11

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A Modern (Business) Group According to Hirokawa et. al, a work team consists of which of the following? 12 Management Focus Groups Laborers/Workers Suppliers Customers That’s right! All of these are parts of modern work teams!

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Survival of the Fittest Work teams and other small groups are more apt to survive if they are open to change. A bona fide group perspective means that the group adapts as people join and leave the group and that the group accepts that its members belong to multiple groups (e.g. family, work group, religious group, sports team, etc.). Why do you think that adaptability is important for group survival? What are some examples from your own experience? 13

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Virtual Groups 14 For some jobs, you just have to be there. Sharing the physical space with others is essential for task completion, safety, and a variety of other reasons. For other jobs, you can work from anywhere. Your work group might consist of people in Bangkok, Jerusalem, St. Louis, & Moscow!

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Challenges Communicating in the Digital World There are challenges of working with others virtually however, and Hirowkawa et. al name four of them. What are they? 15

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Challenges Communicating in the Digital World 16 Has anyone ever misunderstood your tone in an email or a text? Why do you think your message was misunderstood? Could it have had something to do with the lack of nonverbal communication? Have you ever been on a site like Chatroulette? Many times when we talk to others online, we don’t actually know anything about them. When you respond to a user’s comment to a new story on MSNBC, there is a level of anonymity, which makes online relationships challenging. It’s kind of hard to bump into co-workers at the water cooler when each group member lives in a different city. Small talk is important in building relationships, and this is harder to achieve this in virtual environments. Some people like email. Others like chat or text. Knowing which technology to use is imperative for maintaining virtual work groups!

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So learning about working in groups online is important; isn’t it? Hirokawa et. al have already mentioned some of the challenges. Watch these videos, and think about other challenges and benefits you might face in working with others in a virtual environment! YouTube -- Social Media Revolution Socialnomics 2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwWsNSlqGTk Ted – Jason Fried: Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work http://www.ted.com/talks/jason_fried_why_work_doesn_t_happen_at_work.html ABC News The Future of the Workplace: No Office http://hiresocialmediatalent.com/?p=98 When you click these links, the videos should open in a new tab or window. The links are also posted under “View” on D2L. 17

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Goodbye from Felix the Fish 18 I never knew all of that about small groups before! I still think fish are getting the shaft, but I can see why humans think so much of themselves. They are complex communicative beings!

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