Group dynamics have always been a difficult thing for me. In some groups, there’s been a lot of politics between people with more assertive personalities. In others, it’s I who am being the assertive one, doing all the work or being domineering. Sometimes I’m also shy and don’t contribute. Everyone who has ever worked with other people has had both good bad experiences with it.
I’m sometimes surprised, though, that even when I’m working with a really great partner, that the project isn’t always perfect. Take my recent powerpoint with Mukund in Age of Ex titles “Rise of Monarchs of the 16th century”. At first we weren’t sure entirely what the assignment was; it was broad enough that my post-summer brain had a hard time comprehending it. The truth was, though, we didn’t really have a plan beyond that- we were going to read up, take some notes, and then figure out how to make the powerpoint. Eventually, however, once we assembled the bare bones of a powerpoint and were able to work off of it, we came up with something. It was a little information-dense; it probably could’ve formatted better, but once we both decided to just do things instead of asking each other for permission every time, things moved along faster. Our project, though not perfect, became better once we were actually able to work.
Working in groups may be a lot easier for some people than it is for me. But how can it improve?
Thinking back, these are some of the smattering of things that have been successful for me. How much easier group work would be if we all actually did these things?
1. Make a plan: vague is fine. You just need to know what you’re doing.
2. Don’t spend too much time researching. Try to figure out the general topics, then stop and work on how you’re forming them. Go back and do more in-depth research.
3. Personally, I’m a plug-and-chug worker; I ll work for five hours straight because I like to feel like I accomplished something. However, that also means I don’t always take advantage of shorter blocks of time when they’re given to me. Instead of doing that, make the longer-term jobs into assignments in advance.
4. If dealing with overly assertive or non-motivated group members, don’t try to change their base personalities. First, check to make sure it’s not you who’s the problem. Then, make sure everyone is included who wants to be. You can argue as much as you want with people who have strong opinions; instead try to find compromise. The whole point of group work is to have a synthesis of different ideas to make a better project. If all else fails, teachers can help you.
5. Not every decision always has to be a group one; just make it and explain it ; it can be changed later if people don’t like it.
6.Focus on appearance, but not obsessively. Come up with a theme that unifies the format/slides/setting of the presentation, but don’t overdo it. Don’t let “artistic differences” overshadow the larger body of work.
7. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
Feel free to add on to these in the comments below.