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Knowledge and skill

Diposting oleh belajarpsikologi on 21 November 2010
Group composition A group will not be able to perform effectively if it does not have access to the resources it requires to complete its task. Knowledge and skill are key resources. The availability of task-relevant expertise is largely determined by group composition. Unfortunately, all too often the composition of a group is determined by factors such as seniority or personal preference rather than ability. It might also be decided to assign certain people to a group because they represent the interests of various constituents, rather than because of their knowledge and skill. This kind of consideration has implications for group size. 
Group size Many groups in organizations are larger than they really need to be because additional members are recruited for ‘political reasons’. Large groups composed in this way can be effective in so far as their representative membership can help ensure that their output will be well received; however, the quality of the output of large groups may be inferior to that of small groups.
A number of factors may account for this. Large groups encourage social loafing (see above) and can adversely affect participation rates: some people find it much more difficult to contribute within a large group. This can be important for two reasons. First, because there is a tendency for those who make the biggest contribution to exercise most influence and vice versa (Handy 1985), and, secondly, because the people who do not contribute may deprive the group of relevant knowledge and skill.
Group interaction processes Hackman (1987) draws attention to two other factors that, given the group’s composition, can influence the availability of knowledge and skill to all members. The first concerns the weighing of member contributions. Hackman argues that the knowledge and skill of group members can be wasted if the group solicits and weighs contributions in a way that is incongruent with members’ expertise: for example, giving more credence to contributions from certain people because of their age or status, even if they do not possess the most task-relevant expertise. The second he labels ‘collective learning’. There can be a synergetic effect when members of a group interact in a way that helps them to learn from each other, thus increasing the total pool of talent available to the group.
The interpersonal skill of group members can influence the extent to which the task-relevant expertise, discussed above, is applied to the work of the group. Some people lack the interpersonal competence necessary to work with others on a common task and can seriously undermine the group’s ability to perform effectively. It is within this context that the work of Belbin (1981) and Deutsch (1949), discussed later in this chapter, is of importance.


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