Monday, September 9, 2013

Quiet...in the Business World

Wow, I knew that name was familiar! I have been assigning a great NY Times article by Susan Cain to my Management students by the very same person for some time! The article, "The Rise of the New Groupthink," discusses the dysfunctional syndrome and how we are exacerbating its effects by assuming that all or even most great work is done in groups, and pressuring our employees to work in teams without allowing them opportunities to work in solitude.

This article is the subject of Blackboard discussion around the 10th week of each semester in my Principles of Management class. Student responses to the article indicate that most students *loathe* group work, and that almost all of them prefer to work alone. It is so interesting. I usually have to play the advocate for group work, citing its benefits and potential, while reminding students that groups which are cohesive and well- managed can oftentimes produce desirable results. However, the reality, it seems, from both the aforementioned article and all the material I have explored regarding Quiet, is that employers, and oftentimes teachers, do not give their employees/students sufficient opportunities for, or support of, independent work.

I think that these readings give me insight as to how to best assign group work in my future courses, and more specifically, how I should engage students in collaboration for future Community-esque projects. For instance, one big thing that jumps out at me is that last semester, my Community 2.0 project required students to work in groups in class, and then with others across classes. There was never a moment for independent work or contributions based on work done by an individual working in solitude. Everything had to be brainstormed, and everything had to be worked on in collaboration with team members. Students did not have the opportunity to sit in class, or go home, and take some time to tackle ideas on their own before sharing them with their groups. Although I can rationalize this blemised pedagogy by citing time constraints and stating that corporate America requires work in teams and groups 99% of the time, I would be a) just making excuses and b) perpetuating the problem. And, I think I would be ignoring the fact that although employers do require ridiculous amounts of team work (as cited in the Groupthink article), it is those companies which allow their workers autonomy and creativity that are cited as some of the best places to work and are consequently some of the most successful companies in their respective fields. Shouldn't those companies be the ideal, and shouldn't those companies be the kinds of places I prepare my students to one day join?

During the fall semester, I plan to allow students time to work on their own, to explore their own ideas and give them time to prepare eventually "pitching" them to their teams. Additionally, I intend to allow students opportunities to reflect in groups, and on their own- to discuss their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the process and well as the product, and to think about the ways in which their individual contributions helped shape the project's end results.

While Web2.0 platforms are ideal for collaboration and publicity, perhaps I can find ways to encourage students to use these platforms for individual thinking. One idea is to have students create private posts or blogs, and then ask them to excerpt just a piece for public viewing. This way, students are offered and opportunity (and actually required) to take time to think out problems, issues, etc on their own before contributing to a larger discussion.

I am very interested to read and to hear in class what others thought of the Quiet survey, and what their results were. While I completely agree with Cain that the "Extrovert" model is revered in American society, I think that there are so many other factors at work that should be considered in terms of the characterization of individuals as introverts or extroverts, and that many of these are not addressed in the assigned reading excerpts. I most definitely do want to read the book to see if any of these things are explored in her text. Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

4 comments:

  1. Hi Nikki,

    Great reflection in terms of the best practices of individualized work vs. group work. I find it complex to know when to use which type depending on the work. Your concept of pitching ideas to other students is a great one, I have used it within my broadcasting course and it has worked well. It gives them a sense of ownership, instead of competing in the idea development phase.

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  2. It's so interesting to think reflect on how we (unconsciously?) value group-work (and hence group-think) in our C2.0 connections? You make me wonder: How can we leave space (value) for "quiet" connections. I think part of why we choreograph "connections" so thoroughly is because we (at least I) try to ensure that everyone connects to someone and no one is left out... I look forward to brainstorming how we can get the good out of group-collaboration, but also get the good out of "quiet" time--with you, Nikki, over the coming semester! Thanks.
    M

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  3. Hi Nikki,
    I too remember telling my students the advantages of working in groups. One semester, in spite of giving a big lecture about group work, the groups failed. It was a disaster. I had to make everyone work individually. I completely understand that sometimes groups work and sometimes they don't.

    I think there are introvert employees in companies too just like in academia. I always wonder how they behave while working in teams.

    Your plan for Fall semester sounds great. I think this is what most companies do (at least what my husband’s company does). They expect you to complete the task/part of the project on your own and then you work in teams to finish a bigger task. This will clearly show how much an individual knows about the subject and how well they can pitch in. A small suggestion for your class – you could do a survey where each student will rate their team efforts and maybe tell which student has a capability of being a project manager/supervisor or even tell who they think is introvert/extrovert in their group.

    Good luck.
    Sree

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  4. Allowing students the time to work on their own I believe definitely does allow for the students to have a mire hands on approach with the task at hand. It also allows for the introvert to not feel as overwhelmed or pressured to perform or participate when working in groups. It is an all around transition process-individual to group work, which is what I have my students doing with their reflections on the novel they are reading. They have time to reflect and interpret for themselves, then when they come together as a group, it makes for more of an active discussion and processing of incorporation of new ideas from their fellow classmates.

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