How small groups can be made to work

Ms. I ENC 1101 6 October 2011 Culture and the Columbia  Among all the items on todays extinction lists, groups will never make an appearance. This concept can be witnessed among animals and people alike in schools, in the work atmosphere, in local facilities such as malls and restaurants, and even in the home. While the appearance of small groups on the rise, their possibility of functioning properly steadily declines.

Consequently, failure to cooperate may result in members working against each other or even leader dominance. More often than not, groups do not collaborate to meet common goals due to negative psychological influences. How can small groups be made to work Author James Surowiecki delineates the answer. As an editor, a columnist for The New Yorkers, and a renowned publicist, James Surowiecki outlines strategies that should be utilized in order to make small groups function properly in his book The Wisdom of Crowds.

In his book excerpt, Committees, Juries, and Teams The Columbia Disaster and How Small Groups Can Be Made to Work Surowiecki depicts the tendency of group centralization by providing the case of the Columbia Disaster. With that said, Rebekah Nathan introduces some more thoughts to be considered. In her book, My Freshman Year, she trades her anthropology professor title at North Arizona University to surreptitiously play the role of an in-coming freshman student. After a full school years study, she published her thoughts and observations into this book. In the fragment of her book, Community and Diversity, she indicates the aspects of individuality, the bigger community, and the roles they play in the university setting.

Both Surowiecki and Nathan utilize diversity as a primary ingredient for a cohesively functioning group. In order to assuage the negative possibilities resulting from communities and small groups, members must welcome diversity, accurately communicate, have open-minded discussion, and anticipate the influence of hierarchical structure in a work environment. Primarily, uniformity can be a negative influence within a small group and community. Due to the fact that dissimilar opinions arent being introduced, the conversation leaves no room for debate.

Surowiecki expresses the similar view points of the NASA crew members and the lack of contrary beliefs. Surowiecki asserts, NASA employees today are far more likely to have come to the agency directly out of graduate school, which means they are also far less likely to have divergent opinions. That matters because, in small groups, diversity of opinion is the single best guarantee that the group will reap benefits from face-to-face discussion (Surowiecki 446). Cognitive diversity arises from individuals with different educational backgrounds or differing work experiences. Consequently, cognitive diversity is a key factor to a small groups ability to function.

Nathan also believes that diversity plays a key role in a successful work environment. Nathan explains Part of that diversity ideal is the hope that all students will develop friends and have important conversations with those of backgrounds and ethnicities different from their own (Nathan 240). She defines diversity more closely to a learning aspect in which students can discover new ideas by getting to know people of different cultures. Both Surowiecki and Nathan can both agree the fact that community is in dire need of diverse and contrary ways of thinking.

 Furthermore, the failure to use concise communication leads to ignorant decisions.

A copious amount of essential information was either not passed down to the correct team member or just not relayed at all. Surowiecki states, The DAT had reached no conclusions, but they made it clear to McCormack that there was reason to be concerned. McCormack did not transmit that sense of concern to the MMT during its teleconference (Surowiecki 440). With insufficient amounts of information about the foam strike, the DAT (Debris Assessment Team) had done as much research as they could to reach a conclusion as to how much damage the strike actually caused the shuttle.

After they passed on the information to McCormack, he failed to transfer the sense of concern to the MMT. Surowiecki also makes a point in which, the foam strike was never mentioned until well over half-way through the meeting. When asked about it, McCormack replies, people were investigating the possible damage and what could potentially be done to fix it (Surowiecki 440). Consequently, Linda Ham, the leader of the MMT, answered, And I really dont think there is much we can do so its not really a factor during the flight because there is not much we can do about it(Surowiecki 440).

Due to the poor and unclear communication between McCormack and the MMT, Ham made an ignorant decision  deciding that the foam strike was irrelevant. Subsequently, a group is unable to function when they begin with polarized conclusions. Surowiecki depicts several pivotal points regarding NASAs group he teams start off thinking that they will not find a conclusion, and therefore, do not look for evidence or information to reason the problem. One example in Surowieckis article is the rejection of the request for on-orbit pictures of the shuttle by the DAT.

Surowiecki states why the pictures were rejected For instance, when the shuttle manager  turned down the request for pictures, one of the justifications they offered was that the resolution of the images would not be good enough to detect the small area where the foam struck.

In fact, as the CAIB noted, none of the managers had the necessary security clearances to know how good the resolution of the photos would be, nor did any of them ask the Department of Defensewhich would have taken the picturesabout picture quality. In other words, they were making critical decisions about imagery capabilities based on little or no knowledge, and doing so with an air of complete assurance.

(Surowiecki 442-443) Basically, the pictures were rejected due to skepticism because the resolution would possibly be deemed unacceptable therefore, they concluded that they shouldnt even accept them. The MMT instantly assumed any potential problems could not be fixed. For instance, all of Hams questions were not in need of answering because she had already placed the answer in her question. Surowiecki says, Ham e-mailed two members of the team about whether the foam strike might, in fact, pose a threat to the shuttles safety.

Can we say that for any ET external tank foam lost, she wrote, no safety of flight damage can occur to the Orbiter because of the density(Surowiecki 443). Unfortunately, one of the members Ham e-mailed responded with an opposition she paid very little attention to what that member had said and the contrary statements went nowhere. Both quotes portray the MMTs failure to cooperate in a problematic situation by refuting the entry of contrasting feedback and thoughts. Above all, a hierarchical structured work environment is the most detrimental to small group success.

By assigning classifications or ranking to group members, a person can make the mistake of giving the wrong members of the group the most power. A myriad of cases are demonstrated in Surowieckis excerpt. The MMTs discussions consisted mostly of Ham asking (and answering) her own questions. No efforts were made to hear another team members opinions at any time (Surowiecki 445). Additionally, the team leader made the mistake of making all the decisions without consulting the other team members prior.

Surowiecki states, Ham, in other words, had already decided that the foam strike was inconsequential. More important, she decided for everyone else in the meeting that it was inconsequential, too (Surowiecki 440). Due to the mistakes made by the individual leader, the team failed as a whole.

Some people ay conclude that the hierarchical structure will ultimately help a small group resulting from good leadership. I also agree with this as long as power and authority are given to people who are accountable and accept the differing opinions of others within the group. If Lambert Austin was leader of the MMT, and he believed that the preclusion of the possibility of foam damage to the tiles was wrong, then he could have consulted the rest of the team and made a decision based on the whole teams knowledge.

In this case, (when good leadership skills are purveyed) a hierarchy is a positive aspect to a successful work environment. In summation, group settings are simply inevitable. However, there are some preliminary precautions that group members must accept in order to cooperate properly in this style of work atmosphere. Surowiecki and Nathan both make a strong argument explaining how people must collaborate in order to achieve a goal.

On the other hand, I believe diversity introduces contrary points of view, clear communication derives that point of view to be heard, open ended discussion leads to no subjective conclusion, and the utilization of  equality amongst a group all support a functioning work environment.  Works Cited Nathan, ebekah. Community and Diversity. Emerging Contemporary Readers for Writers. Ed. Barclay Barrios. Boston Bedford St. Martins, 2010. 228-246. Print. Surowiecki, James. Committees, Juries, and Teams The Columbia Disaster and How Small  Groups Can Be Made to Work. Emerging Contemporary Readers for Writers. Ed. Barclay Barrios. Boston Bedford St. Martins, 2010. 228-246. Print. Zybach PAGE 8 Y, dXiJ(x(I_TS2 / 3