Working in groups



Week 1

Course overview, introduction to groups 

We'll also introduce Wikipedia and what you will need to do over the course of the semester to complete your Wikipedia editing assignment.


Basis for team success and failure

We’ll introduce fundamental ideas about groups, what they are good for and how they operate.  We’ll consider criteria for group success and some of the factors that influence whether groups will be successful. We'll discuss in class two contrasting cases of crew teams -- the unsuccessful Army Crew Team and the successful women's crew team at Cornell. 

  1. Why does the Varsity team lose to the JV team:
  2. What should Coach P. have done differently earlier in the season to resolve this problem.  Exactly when should he have intervened differently?
  3. At the end of the case, what action should Coach P. take on Tuesday?  What is your rationale for this recommendation? How should he implement this action? Be specific.
  4. What are the relationships among coordination, espirit d'corp and performance in the Army and Cornell crews?

Week 2

Team composition & process loss; 

Introduction to the Wikipedia assignment 

We'll consider the way that characteristics of team members and the ways they work together contribute to their success.


Wikipedia week 2. Start WP assignmen: 


 Process losses: Distinguishing coordination vs motivation

Follow-up reading, optional. This paper is the original meta-analysis on which Karau et al (1995) is based:

  • Karau, S. & Williams, K. (1993).  Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,65(4), 681-706

Week 3

Continuation of process losses (no new reading)
Discussion of the Wikipedia culture & the Wikipedia assignment

 Please skim the Wikipedia assignment & bring questions to class

Distributed groups  



Introduction to distributed groups

Distributed groups are increasingly common. Yet, there is a lot of evidence that distributed groups are less efficient than collocated groups, experience more conflict and member dissatisfaction.  We’ll review some of this evidence and then over the next several weeks consider factors that help groups be successful and the way that geographic dispersion makes these processes harder.

  1. First half of this class will focus on the readings from 9/7 and especially social loafing.
  2. Compare a good and bad team (Due Sunday, 9/17 @ 10PM)
  3. Wikipedia week 3: Learn how to evaluate a Wikipedia article.




Week 4


Successful distributed groups

  1. Wikipedia week 4: Learn about sources and citations. Add an interesting finding or fact  and its citation to one of these articles.  Due 9/29.

No Class: Rosh Hashana


Week 5 


The role of communication media (I)

A cooperative model of human communication proposes that speakers take into account what they expect their listeners to understand and update that information as they are speaking. Listeners have an obligation to indicate their state of knowledge and to cooperate with the speaker to produce an utterance.

  • Chapanis, A. (1975). Interactive human communication. Scientific American, 232, 36-42
  • Clark, Herbert H. & Brennan, Susan E. (1991). Grounding in communication. In L. B. Resnick, R. M. Levine, & S. D. Teasley (Eds.). Perspectives on socially shared cognition. (pp. 127-149). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

The Chapanis paper is old, but it illustrates a very common style of research, where researchers compare one complex communication modality (e.g., face-to-face communication) as a whole with another (e.g., telephone communication).  In contrast, the Clark and Brenna paper takes a decompositional approach, asking what are the constrainsts of different media and how do they constrainsts influence the costs of accomplishing various sub-tasks involved in interpersonal communication. Which approach do you think makes more sense?

  1. Technology essay.  Identify two examples from Gergle et al, (2013) that provide evidence about whether grounding and awareness are indeed different or the same (group assignment).  The goal of writing this assignment is to give you a deeper understanding of what Gergle et al mean by grounding and awareness and how to use empirical evidence to back up or refute a scientific claim.

    The other purpose is the give the class a common experience to evaluate tools for distributed work. This is assignment will be done with a partner, but you cannot meet face-to-face with your partner while doing the work. You need to select videos, find relevant examples wwithin the video and interpret them jointly without meeting in person.  I recommend that you use some video-sharing application, like Google Hangout, Skype or Appear-In for this part of the assignment. Do not do this assignment through a division of labor, in which different students select, analyze and write up each example. The selection, analysis of the video clips and planning of the essay should be all be done jointly, although you can divide the work for writing.   The goal of work remotely is for you to get a viseral sense of the costs of different communication technology for doing highly interdependent work.  Part 1 is due midnight, Sun, 10/1 & part 2 is due midnight, Sun 10/8.


The role of communication media (II)

Wikipedia week 5. List to the course forum 3-5  course-relevant, Wkipedia articles that need work and that you would be interested in working on. Include a brief explanation of what is needed. 

Identity, Diversity & Conflict  


Week 6 

 Group identity and goal conflict


Diversity as a source of conflict

This class examines some of the problems associated with diversity in groups.

  • Van Knippenberg, D., & Schippers, M. C. (2007). Work group diversity. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 58, 515-541. 

  • Polzer, J, Varga, I, & Elfenbein (2003). Henry Tam and the MGI Team. Harvard Business School Case 9-404-068. [Note: some students were having difficulty buying the Henry Tam case from the HBS Publishing website. First try to buy the case from HBS website. However, if that doesn't work, you can access a password protected copy here.]

  • Note: Class will focus on discussing the Henry Tam case. Here are some points to think about when reading the case. We will cover these issues in class:

    1. What is your evaluation of the MGI team's process? What were the root causes of the team's problems?

    2. What are the strengths of the MGI team? That is, how would you have evaluated it "on paper," before its first meeting?

    3. Were the differences among team members a liability or an asset?

    4. What could Henry or Igor done earlier to avoid the team's problems?

    5. At the end of the case, after process problems had developed, what could the team have done to increase its effectiveness? 

Wikipedia week 6. Finalize your topic. Choose partner. Find sources. 

Choose partner and Wikipedia article to write/improve.  You can use this discussion board to find a partner. Once you have settled on an article and partner, assign your chosen topic to yourself on your stduent table in the WikiEducation dashboard.  Due 10/6

Schedule meeting during this week or next with the instructor to discuss your article. In preparation for this meeting, you should have an  outline of the article, indicating where you will make improvements.  You should also have a preliminary list of five - ten reference you will use to wrtie/improve the article. 

Short technology reflection essay (part 2). The second component of the technology assignment is an individually written assessment of your team’s group process and outcomes for part 1 of the assignment. This assessment requires reflection on your group’s interactions and provides the opportunity to apply course concepts and learn from the team's project experience. Due midnight, Sun 10/1

Week 7 

 Diversity as a source of innovation

  • Ideo ( is arguably the best product design firm in the United States. We'll be examining the innovation process that Ideo uses, through the Hargadon & Sutton article below and through an ABC News video, The Deep Dive. Come to class familiar with Ideo and its products, and be prepared to describe how it institutionalizes creativity. Here is another video providing more about Ideo's culture.

  • Hargadon, A. & Sutton, R. Technology brokering and innovation in a product development firm. (1997). Administrative Science Quarterly, 42, 716-749.

 Many analysts stress the value of having demographically and intellectually diverse work groups, for reasons of fairness and performance. What are the benefits and costs of diversity of work groups? Can we identify techniques for getting value from diversity, while minimizing some of its known costs? This class focuses on organizing to gain benefits from diversity.

Create a detailed outline reflecting your proposed changes, and post these for community feedback, along with a brief description of your plans, on the article’s talk page. Start compiling a bibliography of reliable sources relevant to your article and post this to the article talk page. Make sure to check back on the talk page often and engage with any responses. You can change the outline and continue to add sources later, but the first draft of the outline and sources is due 10/11

Create a copy your existing article in one teammate's sandbox and start adding to and improving it in the sandbox. 


Introduction to Negotiation

 Wikipeidia week 7. Draft your Wikipedia article,

Week 8


 Managing conflict in groups

  • Forsyth, D. (2009). Group dynamics: Wadsworth Pub Co. (Chapter 13: Conflict). Pp. 379-409
  • Barker, J. R. (1997). Disciplining a teammate. In B. D. Syher (Ed.), Case studies in organizational communication (Vol. 2, pp. 97-109). New York: Guildford Press.

We'll be spending much of the class discussing the Barker case, Disciplining a Teammate. In reading the case consider the following questions:

  1. What did the self-managed team do to prevent conflicts from arising?  
  2. What did they do correctly in handling Sharon's unpredictablility and pattern of lateness and absence?
  3. What did they do poorly?
  4. What else could they have done?
  5. How can you use principles of negotiation to handle the conflict in this case?

Attitudes, attitude change & persuasion




Introduction to attitudes

  • Aronson, E., Wilson, T., & Akert, T. (2010). Social Psychology. Chapter 7: Attitudes and attitude change. Pearson. Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  • Cialdini, Robert B. (2008) Influence: Science and practice (5rd Edition). Chapter 4: Social Proof. pp. 97-140. Note, earlier versions of this book could substitute. A Google search on "Cialdini influence pdf" returns 
  • Optional (for deeper background): Petty, R., & Wegener, D. (1998). Attitude change: Multiple roles for persuasion variables. The handbook of social psychology, 1, 323–390.
Wikipedia week 8.Peer review two other artcies from the class.

Choose two of your classmates' articles to review & paste the URLs of your selections into the appropriate columns in this spreadsheet Select articles so that every article has four reviewers signed up. Note that you don't have to start your review yet, but selection is due: 10/19.

Week 9


Persuasion and liking

Pick an ad on the web or Youtube advocating or opposing a public policy and analyze how it works.  Pick any policy you care about --e.g., climate change, infant vaccinaction, the affordable care act.  Identify what you think are the principles it is using to influence potential readers/viewers. The assignment is described here. You will write up your analysis as a post on the class forum, inclduing the URL to the ad you are analyzing and no more than 150 words of analysis. Come to class prepared to show and discuss this ad. 


Persuasion and social pressure


Week 10


More on persuasion

  • No new readings, but lecture & discussion will focus on the impact of authority and social pressure.
  • Students will report on their analysis of political or policy advertisements.
  • We'll spend time in class on giving feedback on designs of your proposed experiments for the persuasion assignment

Wikipedia week 10. As soon as the articles you signed up to review are ready, peer review them & respond to peer reviews of the article you are working on. Begin to move your draft WP article from your sandbox to the main WP article area.  You should do this in stages over several days or in separate edits (saves) within a single edit session, so that if other WP editors disagree with some of your changes and decide to remove them, they change back only a portion of what you've written, rather than your whole draft.  Due 11/5 (or whenever the articles for review are ready).

Persuasion experiment.  The assignment is described in more detail here. Basically in a team of two or three students, you will conduct a small experiment in which you create versions of persuasive message, differing on a dimension which research suggests should have an impact on influencing an audience and then collect data to see if one version of the ad is more effective than the other. Post your write-up in this forum. Due 11/12.

Wikipedia week 10. Continue to improve your article. 



 Individual self-presentation


Week 11


 Organizational self-presentation

  • Van Maanen, J. (1991). The smile factory: Work at Disneyland. In P. Frost, L. Moore, M. Luis, C. Lundberg, & J. Martin (Eds.), Reframing organizational culture (pp. 58-76). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. (also available here.)
  • Sutton, R. I. (1991). Maintaining norms about expressed emotions: A case of bill collectors. Administrative Science Quarterly36, 245-268.
  • Supran, G., & Oreskes, N. (2017, Aug 22). What exxon mobil didn’t say about climate change, New York Times, p. A.
 Wikipedia week 11. Polish your work. Monitor and respond to comments from peer reviewers and comments and changes from the WP community and make changes as needed.  If you disagree with a suggestion, use the article talk pages to politely discuss and come to a consensus on your edit. Responses to peer reviews due 11/15


 Introduction to Leadership 

  • Kaiser, R. B., Hogan, R., & Craig, S. B. (2008). Leadership and the fate of organizations. American Psychologist, 63(2), 96-110. 

  • Mintzberg, Henry (1990, March/April). The manager's job: Folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review, 68(2),163-176. If the Harvard link doesn't allow you to purchase the article, use this link.

  • Hollander, E. P. (1992). The essential interdependence of leadership and followership. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1(2), 71-75. (Just read the sections on Relational Quality of Leadership, Transactional Leadership & the Active Follower,  and Transformational Leadershp & Charisma.)

 Follow-up readings: optional


Week 12


Leadership as behavior

 PersasionWikipedia week12. Finalize your article. Review the checklist before submitting your article for grading. 

Continue to monitor & improve your WP article as needed. Do additional research and writing to further improve to your article, based on your classmates' suggestions and any additional areas for improvement you can identify.

experiment due midnight, Sunday Nov 12.


Communication, familiarity and coordination

Having common beliefs and views of a situation should allow groups to communicate more efficiently. How does this work?

  • Argote, L. (1999)Organizational learning. Boston: Kluwer. Chapter 1. Learning Curves. (Read only pages 1-13, up to section 1.4).
  • Argote, L. (1999)Organizational learning. Boston: Kluwer. Chapter 3. Organizational Memory. pp. 67-98.

Week 13


Organizational Culture

Leaders often try and sometime succeed in instilling a distinct culture for the groups & organizations they lead.  In today's class we'll get a sense of what organizational culture is and contrast two distinct, leader-driven organizational cultures.

Wikipedia week 13. Turn in your article for grading by 11/27.


Thanksgiving break.

No Class


Social networks/Communication boundaries


Week 14


Introduction to social networks


People are important sources for information and other resources. Interpersonal networking is important to gain these resources, but getting to new pockets of information is what is crucial.

  • Allen, T. (1977). Managing the flow of technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 141-181. The technological gatekeepers.
  • Raider, H., & Krackhardt, D. (2001). Intraorganizational Networks. In J. A. C. Baum (Ed.), Companion to Organizations (pp. 58-74.). Oxford, UK.: Blackwell.
  • Introduction to social network analysis tools:


Social network visualization assignment. What can you learn about a group by looking at the structure of its social network?  (in-class pesention on Dec 7th with
documentation due midnight Dec 8th.

Week 15


 Online social networks systems and personal outcomes

  • Gilbert, E., & Karahalios, K. (2009). Predicting tie strength with social media CHI'09: Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems (pp. 211-220). New York, NY: ACM Press.
  • Dunbar, R. (2010).  Do we need (150) friends
  • Burke, M., & Kraut, R. E. (2016). The relationship between Facebook use and well-being depends on communication type and tie strength. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 21(4), 265-281.
Wikipedia week 15. WP self-reflection essay. You only need to write a single essay for your team. (Due Sunday, Dec 10th, midnight)

Show and tell of your social network visualization assignment

In-class presentation on Dec 7.
Network visualization slide deck with notes due Dec 8th.
NSH 3002

Course review

Note, this is a time for students to ask questions and get clarification. It will not be a lecture of course highlights.


WEH 4623

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