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Small Groups as Complex Systems

Small Groups as Complex Systems
Formation, Coordination, Development, and Adaptation

March 2000 | 344 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

"The emphasis on change at many levels of organization is critically important as is the first attempt to integrate sophisticated theory and research in organization psychology (e.g., Gersick, Hackman) with social psychological models of development such as Moreland and Levine."

--Reuben M. Baron, Emeritus, University of Connecticut

"Arrow, McGrath, and Berdahl's 'Small Groups as Complex Systems' will change the way you think about groups, the way you think about research, and even the way you think about science." --Donelson R. Forsyth, Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth U

"The book is excellent, one of those very rare works that will have substantial impact on the field. I would use the book without hesitation in any advanced graduate seminar dealing with groups."

--Donelson R. Forsyth, Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth U

"A conceptually elegant analysis of groups as systems. Although the systems approach has been growing more influential in various fields of social psychology in the last ten years, no one has put forward a definitive analysis that applies with fidelity the general systems approach to group processes. McGrath and his colleagues fill that gap, not by paying lip service to popular scientific concepts such as recursive causality, open systems, attractors, and complexity theory, but by fully integrating these concepts into their no-nonsense analysis of such group level processes as formation, task performance, composition, development, and termination. Empirical work is folded into the theoretical mix along the way, but the focus is unrelentingly conceptual with the result that the authors deliver on their promise of developing a powerful, unified theory of group dynamics."

--Donelson R. Forsyth, Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth U

"Theirs is an ambitious book. They have profound ramifications for experimental social psychology. It is worth mentioning that AMD (Arrow, McGrarth, and Berdahl) list an ethnographic approach, which often implies the adoption of hermeneutic and semiotic methods (a hallmark of the anti-Enlightenment tradition in psychology), as a possible way forward."

--Yoshihisa Kashima, American Journal of Psychology

What are groups? How do they behave? Arrow, McGrath, and Berdahl answer these questions by developing a general theory of small groups as complex systems. Basing their theory on concepts distilled from general systems theory, dynamical systems theory, and complexity and chaos theory, they explore groups as adaptive, dynamic systems that are driven by interactions among group members as well as between the group and its embedding contexts. In addition, they consider not only the group's members and their distribution of attributes, but also the group's tasks and technology in order to understand how those members, tasks, and tools are intertwined, coordinated, and adjusted. Throughout the book, the authors focus our attention on relationships among people, tools, and tasks that are activated by a combination of individual and collective purposes and goals that change and evolve as the group interacts over time.

Small Group Research
The Past and Some Needs for the Future

Groups as Complex Systems
Overview of the Theory

Group Formation
Assembly and Emergence

Local Dynamics
Coordinating Members, Tasks and Tools

Global Dynamics
Stability and Change within the Group System

Contextual Dynamics
Adaptation of the Group to Multiple Embedding Contexts

Endings and Transformations

Implications of Our Theory for Constructing a Research Program
Some Research Strategies for Studying Groups as Complex Systems

Whilst this is an excellent book it is at a higher level than needed for our course. I would recommend it as an masters level course reader. It offers a new perspective on an old subject and links current thinking around the science of complexity with the social phenomena of groups in a concise way.

Mr Bren Cook
Health , University of Bolton
February 1, 2016

An exellent book that presents a holistic approach on reaseach on small groups and suggests a more holistic way of understanding and researching the complexity of small groups in a deeper manner. Ideal for post grad & doctorate level. However, too specific for our course level of understanding small group dynamics in an educational context.

Mr Juha Lahti
Department of Education, University of Jyvaskyla
February 15, 2013

Christian education in churches often takes place in the context of small groups, and knowledge of social theories about groups is crucial to manage them well. For those specializing in this direction, this is highly recommended reading

Dr Jack Barentsen
Practical Theology, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit
December 31, 2010

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