Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Embracing Group Working

The ability to build and retain a network is a crucial life and business skill.  This takes time and can be arrived at through a variety of different avenues – naturally through department, organisation and industry ‘teams’ but also from University alumni groups, shared sporting or music interests, hobbies, career oriented associations or common shared experiences. Perhaps (some way down the track) even other parents at your childrens’ schools.

In some cultures, organisations and roles the ability to work in a variety of both formal and informal groups and to develop deep and wide networks is an essential capability, the lack of this kind of political connectedness resulting often in failure. 

University is a relatively safe place where you are encouraged to take risks and learn from success, failure and anything in between.  It is unusual to see a group that has worked hard failing an assignment, thus the cost of failure is very low.  The chance therefore exists to take risks and learn from them. 


There is great social value attached to the group based skills of being able to pull favours, ask for help, get special consideration comes from (often) enduring relationships built up over a long time and multiple interactions across a wide network. 

Think of building and maintaining long term relationships with every opportunity. Spend time strategically when working in groups getting to know one another, do not mistake group work as tactical, functional activity of low importance.

Possible perceived problems with group working

  • Nothing to learn from others  (good luck on your desert island !)
  • Hard to co-ordinate (yes – they can be)
  • Risk of plagiarism (not everyone understands this fully)
  • Risk of low mark (but also the potential for a higher mark)
  • Being put in groups (anxiety of working with unknown entities, challenge of getting everyone together sufficiently)
  • Self-selecting groups – making ‘safe choices’ rather than looking to experiment (and have a richer learning experience)
  • Personality conflicts (we don’t get on, we worked together previously – they didn’t add much value/turn up/pull their weight)