What makes groups more successful?

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This varies depending on the purpose of the group, but some general features of successful groups include the following:

  • A worthwhile common goal: If group members don't value the purpose of the group, their time together is not going to be productive. Members need to feel that the time they...

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This varies depending on the purpose of the group, but some general features of successful groups include the following:

  • A worthwhile common goal: If group members don't value the purpose of the group, their time together is not going to be productive. Members need to feel that the time they are using to achieve a goal is for a valuable purpose.
  • Neither too much nor too little time to accomplish a goal: Groups who are not given enough time to accomplish the goal will feel rushed and tensions can rise as members try to meet time constraints. The quality of the outcome can be thus compromised. Groups who are given too much time can be prone to off-task behaviors and conversations, also compromising the outcome.
  • An encouraging atmosphere: If the atmosphere of group work is negative, group members can feel defeated before they begin. Having an encouraging person in charge of keeping all groups on task and with an upbeat attitude can increase productivity.
  • Group construction: It's true that people need to work together and overcome differences, but it's also true that certain personality combinations can be detrimental to productivity. This applies to combining personality opposites (for example, putting a very vocal and pushy Type A personality with a student who suffers from extreme anxiety) to combining personality types which are too similar (for example, putting a student with no sense of deadlines with another student who has never felt compelled to stay on task). The group must be diverse but also constructed so that the goal can still be achieved.
  • Holding individuals accountable for specific tasks: This is perhaps the most crucial and simultaneously overlooked of all qualities of effective groups. Everyone can recall the assignments where one individual actually completed all of the work for the group. That's not the purpose of constructing groups. In effective groups, each person in the group is responsible for a different task—and are held accountable for their own, individual work.

Groups can be meaningful or a source of great frustration, and most of the difference lies in the way the groups are organized and led.

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