Archive for the 'Learning in Groups & Teams' Category

Sprouting perspectives…

I enjoyed the team building activity on Monday. It was a nice way to finish the last class gathering. The photos to pick from were really powerful images and could be used for so many similar type activities. It’s a nice way to have people reflect and share their thinking in a way that others can relate to. Taking images from everyday life that we are familiar with in some way and then using them to tell a story about how you see something or another. It really seems to open up another avenue of connection. This is definitely a socially oriented activity. However, to me it was also definitely related to our task work in the class and our teams.

And now, the semester is over and “Learning in Groups and Teams” is also now an item that I can add to my shoebox. I think many seeds have been planted during this semester. They will need some further nourishing from the nutrients found in the soil of persistence, the light of action, the air of courage, the water of reflection, and the spirit of inquiry…

I really enjoyed this class. It was especially rewarding to get to know and work with my teammates of the Infrareds. Yet, it was a bit odd to not get to know others in the class so well, too. It’s clear that it was by working in the smaller group on projects that we had the opportunity to get to know each other better and also learn from each other.

Until we meet again, somewhere or another along the journey…


I wanted to post this video that Ruth found for our paradoxes team presentation/learning activity. I like the feeling it carries and it does bring up some of the paradoxes of life today in a globalized world.

The paradoxes explored in Smith and Berg’s “Paradoxes of Group Life” are such a fascinating topic.  It seems we so often want to have a final answer to a problem or situation. However, the concept of the paradox is that you can have two seemingly contradictory views that are both essentially true. Woa! Ruminate on that for a while, and a while longer…

Identity – if I join the group (or perhaps even have an exchange with another individual…?), will I loose my identity? But maybe I could also gain something about myself if I step out.

And then there’s disclosure – if I disclose the parts of myself I am unhappy with and want to change, maybe I will be rejected by the other(s). And if I don’t, I won’t really be authentic. I’m only making a show. How much do I reveal?

And what really caught my attention was the paradox of authority. It is about authorizing – both others and myself. If I authorize another to act on my behalf, then in a sense it means I am giving my part in that act to them to carry out. To me, this implies a need for trust. That my ideas, interests, hopes, needs are taken into consideration by the other. Of course, I know that my views and interests may not always be the best or most effective way to go, but at least if they are considered and valued, it would be a motivation for me to continue contributing energetically and enthusiastically. Then there is the idea that with authority there is the access to power. And power can be used for yourself or it can be used to empower others. If you only take the power and use it for yourself, then others will not feel like their contributions are valued and may loose motivation and interest and creativity… However, if the one who has access to power uses it to empower others, then others will feel valued and then the one who has given the power away will also get it back…!! bizarre..

This makes me look at the concept of power differently. I used to have difficulty with the concept of power, but now I see that it is really just the way it is used. I guess the challenge is that when you have access to power, you get a bit intoxicated by it and then don’t like giving it away so much! In a sense, it seems that real power is about recognizing the ability of others to be of value and contribute, at least in their potential to do so. It’s about giving away any power you have.

But then, there are times that it’s surely necessary to authorize yourself too. Yes, indeed, what a paradox. and… what a dance!

Systems Thinking and Transparency

The Infrareds finished our third and final project for the class. It’s been quite interesting to see how our team has evolved over the semester and quite fascinating to simultaneously study the many facets involve in group and team work. Levi covers much of the theoretical underpinnings and Schwarz gives many, many practical guidelines for becoming more effective.

The mutual learning model is very powerful in concept, but it really seems to be a change in our natural tendencies. One aspect that i’ve found significant is trying to be transparent in what I’m thinking, saying and doing, too. This means becoming more aware of my mental habits such as making inferences and assumptions, jumping to conclusions, etc – basically, acting unilaterally. i do find that when in more stressful or emotionally charged situations that i seem default to thinking more unilaterally – right/wrong, good/bad, me/them… It brings to mind a poem from Rumi that I’ve really found helpful at times:

Out Beyond there is a Field

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

~ Rumi

That’s straying a bit into the spiritual realm, however, to me it is an attempt to apply higher values to daily life. Models like the Mutual Learning Model and the Skilled Facilitator Approach (SFA) seem to be useful tools to put into practice some of the higher values that connect us as human beings. The challenge most often seems to be points of view or habits of mind that tend towards the unilateral approach. These seem so ingrained and it takes some time to get a different perspective… Intellectually, it seems quite clear that acting unilaterally is ineffective and leads to unintended consequences, most often not positive — although these may be good learning opportunities, now that I have tools such as the mutual learning model and the SFA.

For me, some sort of reflective practice is really important to get some insight into how some habits or points of view are not in line with my core or higher values. I have found that meditation has been extremely helpful for me. After our presentation on Monday, I realized that I could have shared this with the class. However, I didn’t disclose this. Probably, because I feel it is a very personal part of my life and I don’t want to push my preferences on someone else. However, I feel like if i had to make the presentation again, I would share how meditation has helped me as a reflective practice.

When the Infrareds met Monday before class to prepare for our presentation, Penny shared a situation from work where she was trying to apply the SFA in a meeting and one of her co-workers jumped in over her and acted in a unilateral way. It was an opportunity for all of us to reflect and see if she could have done anything differently. After our presentation, I realized such a live situation could have been a very good learning opportunity for us to use in our presentation. However, we didn’t quite think of until afterward!

learning within learning…

decisions, decisions…

It’s fascinating to really build and work in a team while at the same time actually study the many factors that impact a team and the and the varied aspects, elements and perspectives involved. For instance, to study the different kinds of decision making, I can see, yes, there are perhaps 3 main kind – democratic, consultative and consensus. And we can discuss these in class to understand the theory and share our past experiences. …It’s helpful to look back in my our experience and also hear what others experienced. And then, our team is faced with making decisions. hmmm… and that’s interesting to observe. And it’s interesting to observe myself – how i respond the process…

I’ve had experiences where there is a more consultative or even democratic decision making process and I’ve felt that afterward there was something that was missing in the quality of the decision as well as acceptance. Sometimes it is a more expedient process for a leader to make a decision, for sure; but in situations where a high level of commitment is needed to realize the outcome, my experience is that it’s worth the extra time needed to bring everyone on the same page. The leader of one facilitator workshop I went to said, “Go slow to go fast.”   Something like what Dr Carter said today – was it, “don’t just stand there, do nothing” ??

there is really so much learning going on for me in this process. all the paradoxes of belonging, engaging and speaking – some more, some less. and it seems that some of these are going on for others in the our group. i wonder when the day will come that i might consider myself learned? ha, ha! the dance of human development. i guess if i were learned, things might be boring!! it’s just that sometimes the learning process can be a bit painful – when I see all the stuff where i’m still out of harmony with. how to find the balance of of being able to maintain some degree of harmony amidst the disharmony that still swirls within and without???

to disclose or not disclose, to speak or not to speak

For me, I also think it also involves trust in the group and being curious about what everyone has to say. The paradoxes of group life are also fascinating. Not only is this about group life, but it is clear that these paradoxes also affect the individual. Do I lose my identity if I join a group? Or will my identity become more individuated as I accept the identity of the group. Disclosure seems to be such an important issue. We could see in the video examples of ‘group think’ and the Abiline paradox, that in both kinds of situations members of the groups did not speak up. In a group think situation, there is really a fear to speak up. I’ve been in situations like this. It’s just not OK for the group culture to speak against the leadership or the culture, etc. And as a result, the quality of decisions is less and at times i’ve seen significant mistakes or errors. Fortunately, nothing so tragic as a blown ‘o’ ring on a space shuttle launch

So, there is a real risk to disclose – a risk to feel rejected by the team or group and thus perhaps feel dejected or unappreciated. But then, there is the other side of the risk which is probably not to far from rejection/dejection, except that it doesn’t come from the group, but rather, from ourselves. If i don’t speak out, I will often wish that I had and could feel dejected that I didn’t have the courage. An of courage… Berg and Smith say, “to be courageous, one must act in fullness of doubt an uncertainty, affirming that which seems not affirmable.” …not really trying to be courageous, but rather in the midst of uncertainty, doubt and confusion, acting to one’s fullest capacity

paradoxes are a deep pool which we seem to spend a lot of time bathing in…

To blog again…

Well, it’s been a while since i’ve visited here. I don’t think that my reflection has stopped. However, there is something to stopping, taking time to get the reflection out of the ethers and into some form of visible media, words on a page of some form or another…

I am enjoying the learning in groups and teams class. It’s really awesome to get a deeper insight into the theoretical and practice aspects of group and team dynamics. i’ve had some very positive collaborative experiences working with teams in the past and also very challenging ones too.

The readings really help shed some retrospective light on some of those experiences…


The challenging ones were were there was little collaboration; rather, there was a mix of competition and also individualism. I think we could not really reach a common goal as a team, enough to work together as a whole. Some of the team collaborated well, but there also was some intense competition and also strong individualism. Also, the team leaders weren’t really on the same page, it seems like they didn’t have a shared vision of the team focus. From the beginning there was a strong focus on task and, I think, not enough made for developing a connection away from tasks. There were also issues of ambiguity in context, how we were related to the larger organization which was connected to the team. more issues with role definition…

I must say with all of the challenges, it was an excellent opportunity to learn. One of the things that really came out of the challenging team experience was that I saw the importance of a facilitative approach. As a part of this I realized i needed, myself, to have better facilitative skills and also to work more on communication and listening.

It’s interesting to explore the different aspects of power – the differences between soft power and positional  power – legitimate, referent, and expert… Sometimes I have felt a repulse by those with coercive or even reward type power… I think it’s when there is a lack of respect and when due to a position there is some kind of feeling of superiority. I guess it’s because I loose trust that what I may have to say or contribute would really be seriously considered

so many factors…

And there are more factors. It was really helpful to use the Schwarz Group Effectiveness Model to explore the functioning of the jury in 12 Angry Men. I now have more understanding about how the system of a team or group functions and the different factors and elements that impact the effective functioning of a group.

A fresh start, a new perspective