Group Dynamics: Unnoticed Culprit
When most scientists make mistakes we take responsibility. We own up to our computation errors, confess our inadequate analyses, and repair our failures of judgment. We go back, review, make adjustments and corrections, and move forward. Yet working hard to address our mistakes, we often overlook one of the most significant, recurring culprits undermining performance, productivity, and achievement: group dynamics.
When a promising project stalls, it’s often not because team members fail to conduct adequate analysis. Rather, a vocal minority dominates the team’s discussions, crowding out introverted team members who possess key insights. When a review board approves a flawed project, it’s often not because board members lack intelligence or objectivity. Rather, board members’ quick agreement fogged their awareness of the need to look more closely at the data they possessed.
Scientists may prefer to work alone, but we use groups extensively. We use groups to engage the multiple, diverse disciplines necessary to grow a concept into a product. We use groups to tackle projects, solve specific problems, and explore opportunities. We use groups to provide feedback, insight, and perspective to individuals. We use groups to review the work of other groups. It’s only when individuals work in groups that concepts can move forward, develop, and grow. Yet our understanding of and skills with groups both lag far behind our individual efforts.