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Team Work and Group Thinking
by Nikhlesh Mathur Bookmark and Share

Team work and Group thinking are normally assumed to be synonyms by most of us, but actually they are not as similar as we generally think them to be.

Team work is working together collaboratively with others with an objective to implement a set of jobs in the best possible manner for the benefit of the organization. The success of ‘Team work’ requires efficient use of the skills possessed by the individual members of the team continually till the implementation stage. Since the level of skills of different individuals are never same, it becomes the responsibility of the team leader to synchronize the skills of the different members and make everyone work in a way such that the deficiencies, if any, at any time during the implementation, get compensated by the other member. It is like a relay race where-in a member makes extra efforts to catch up the time for covering up the slowness of some other member so that the baton in the hand reaches the finish line as a winner. The team leader has to arrange the sequence of the different racers for achieving the best output, timely.

Group thinking is a phenomenon where a group of people put forward their individual ideas pertaining to the objective and then everyone in the group discuss out together the pros & cons of the same in context to the practicability and economics of the idea. The individual ideas when merged during Group thinking can give birth to a completely new idea. The success of Group thinking lies in the ability of the individuals to realize and accept the right idea in true spirits. The Leader or Coordinator of such a group, should not exercise his/her executive powers in picking up the right idea for implementation and neither should he/she try to guide the discussion using the position in showing favors to a previously chosen idea from a specific person who happens to be his/her known favorite person in the group. Exhibition of such favors whether in words or in body language detaches the other thinkers in the group from the core activity. Expressing strong opinion by the leader or group coordinator should also be avoided as it inhibits surfacing of the right solution.

Group thinking requires that the group members are initially explained the issue for which a solution is being sought, and then asked to think over it individually. They can be explained individually, or may be in a group by the leader, or by the person who is accountable for the work and asked to assemble on a particular day with all others in the group to put forth their ideas along with pertinent examples and evidences. They should be given sufficient time to formulate their ideas.

The group should then meet at the decided time and carry out the presentation of their individual ideas in the best possible manner ensuring effective communication within the group.

Team work usually begins after group thinking and after an idea from group thinking exercise is accepted for implementation.

Though ‘Team work’ is itself difficult but, ‘Group thinking’ is even more arduous.

Team work provides time to the members and several times it so happens that two members who begin in disagreement with each other end up singing the same song happily. The time spent together for accomplishing the job develops cohesiveness and camaraderie. The role of the team leader is extremely important here as he/she has to handle situations psychologically also at several turns on the road to the final destination. The team leader has time for doing this and he/she can plan out the course of action to diffuse the rivalry and bring people to work on the same track for the success of the team.

Group thinking gives lesser time for such activities. The habit of declaring dislike openly and strongly acts as a big hurdle. A low ‘Emotional Quotient’ in people otherwise possessing high Intelligence Quotient is the biggest factor which harms group thinking in an immense way, if not handled properly. It sometimes even makes the members act in a reverse manner which not only nullifies the positivity of group thinking but also puts the upcoming team work in the reverse gear. People may hide their unhappiness during group thinking but if they are not able to eradicate it from their minds, it then unfortunately surfaces out later, mostly at the wrong time, which jeopardizes the progress of the concerned activity in a big way.

Team work requires cooperation from all members of the team at all times during the course of the implementation of activities.
Group thinking does not mandate that one has to agree to the ideas put forth by all. Group thinking would be successful only when the ideas are examined from all the angles. More often it is the combination of the ideas which is finally approved by most of the thinkers of the think-tank.

Formation of a team for efficient team-work is always a tougher task. The organizations have to select the members from its employees. Many times the employees holding specific qualifications get automatically selected in the team for a specific project. For example, a maintenance engineer in a company generally gets automatically selected in the team for a technical project irrespective of his/her competence level. It generally becomes difficult for team makers to visualize that the existing available qualified person is actually not fit to carry out additional project related responsibilities though he/she carries out the routine repair-maintenance work to a satisfaction level. This is because the immediate thought would be to save on additional man-head and its cost; though not recruiting a specialized person might prove to be more costly by the time the project completes.

Analysis of failures of a project has more often than not indicated inclusion of favorites in the team as the prime reason.

For group thinking one can even invite experts who are not a part of the organization.

Group thinking has weak areas too which need to be tackled very carefully. The biggest problem arise when the thinkers are not explained the subject correctly because of which their expression tends to become ambiguous and their narration inconclusive. When the subject matter is unclear the thought-process becomes hazy. The person heading the group instead of realizing the root cause assumes that the member is not capable.

Group thinking also suffers majorly when the group leader starts demonstrating his/her executive powers or the power of his/her designation to intervene inadvertently. A single utterance indicating the misuse of his superiority during the meet might make a few go in their shell and tune to a ‘Yes Sir’ mode. The leaders should refrain from displaying such an attitude even through their body language. They should also not behave as if they are giving preferential treatment to an individual.

Group thinking also suffers when there is lack of communicative ability in the individuals. Many persons are not able to express exactly what they have in mind. The group leader should then come to their aid and gently put up soft questions in such a manner that the matrix of the plan in their mind flows out comfortably.
At the same time the tendency of over-communication by some persons or their tendency to keep them as centre of attraction during the meeting, also hampers effective output from others.  This can even give rise to dissent within the thinkers.

Group thinking becomes a tedious task also because of mishandling of the questions posed against the ideas expressed by different members of the group. But for the success of group thinking such questioning is an essential feature. Infact on the lighter side one can say that there needs to be a member available as a devil’s advocate so that the idea and thoughts expressed pass the acid tests and heat tests. This is again a difficult job because at some stage of the discussion it might generate reluctance in the members to express. Therefore the role of such a person should be made clear right at the beginning of the thinking session to all members so that no one takes offence later and the harmony in the group is maintained.

After all group thinking is meant for improving the quality of the decisions to facilitate team work.

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