The DCG Group Experience:
As mentioned earlier, the groups were formed randomly by the professor of the subject. When the groups were decided and posted out online, everybody was anxious to find out who are they teamed with. We were group number 8, I was a little shocked by the fact I did not know any of the names, it turned out that none of my group members knew each other before. We described this as “very unlucky” and regarded it as a disadvantage, which turned out not to be! but this will be addressed later on the paper. we will now start with the describing the events and development of the group using Tuckman’s Developmental Sequence in Small Groups (1965).
1- Testing and dependence: our first group meeting was in accordance to this stage, we introduced each other and started attempting to develop a degree of friendship, at least me “the Jordanian” and the two Chinese members. The Dutch members wanted to dive in to the group objective and task at hand right from the start. The Dutch people are highly individualist and in high individualist societies task prevails over relationship (Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov, 2010). They did not want to waste time on another thing than the task. This was noticed by us, the group of internationals, and we started to set the ground rules for the assignment. We will have a meeting every week and we must finish within 8 weeks in total. Everyone will read about the project and we will discuss and divide tasks on the next meeting.
2- Intragroup conflict: Second meeting started, each member had his/her own views of how to tackle the project and where to start from. This stage was a struggle, conflicting point of views everywhere. Clearly it was noticed that Dutch people supported each other’s opinions, the two Chinese supported each other and me “the Jordanian” was left alone. Although they knew each other just one week before, but clearly, according to the social identity theory “People tend to like and trust in-group members more than out-group members and thus generally tend to favor in-group over out-group” (Tajfel and Turner’s, 1986) is what happened. I was at a disadvantage per se, since I did not have hypothetical in-group members. We were divided into two subgroups, The three Dutch members together, and me together with the Chinese members. Initially It made sense, the local in-group and the international out-group. And in the inside of the international group, the Chinese in-group and Jordanian out-group. We reached to a conclusion here that this division would be to the benefit of our project.
On our next meeting, we had to submit to each other a small part of the project, not everybody had something ready to submit. Specifically speaking one Dutch and one Chinese member did not submit anything. To me, an out-group member, it was annoying that they did not put as much effort as the rest of us but not as much, at least to the comparison of the judgement of their in-group members. The black sheep hypothesis states “judgment about likable and unlikable ingroup members should yield more extreme positive and negative evaluations than judgement about similarly likable and unlikable outgroup members” (Marques, Yzerbyt, & leyens, 1988) and this was the case here. Conflict raised again, but this time in-between in-group members.
3- Relevant interpretation: unlucky for us, within our 8 weeks’ time limit, we had two weeks of Christmas vacation. We could not meet because everybody went back home to their families, so we decided to separate tasks and meet after the holiday. The meeting of week 5 after the Christmas break began, me and the Chinese members has done our tasks, but the Dutch members did not! Here clearly, we can see that the indulgent vs restrained society dimension of Hofstede takes place. According to Hofstede, “indulgent society put high importance of leisure” (Tajfel and Turner’s, 1986) and this was the case for them, but to me and the Chinese members – coming from restrained society – work is more important to us than leisure. The Dutch members expected us to behave the same way as they did, but after they saw the amount of work that we have done, respect and more friendly attitude came to be. They immediately recognized that they have to put much more effort now to compensate for the two weeks of holiday rest. At the end of the meeting utmost cohesion took place and everybody recognized the other member as an equal, no discrimination between in-groups and out-groups anymore, deadline is within two weeks, all differences aside, we now move as one cohesive unit.
4- Functional role Relatedness: on our 6th meeting, we are now more considered on producing better results in the shortest period possible. Everybody understands what the other member is capable of and tasks were divided accordingly. Sub groups were established again but this time instead of 2 groups we divided into 3, sub-group members were divided on their functional role relatedness not with whom they are comfortable working with like what was established before. One group was myself and a Dutch member working on the calculation of the project, one Chinese and one Dutch member working on the analysis part of the project, and the other 2 Dutch members working on the documentation and methodologies used. Everyone was working on what he/she was best at. This clearly corresponds with the categorization-elaboration model (CEM) developed by Dreu, Homan & Knippenberg’ in 2004. It states that “Diversity management should focus on task motivation and task ability, task ability may be by selecting individuals high in cognitive ability, task-specific knowledge, skills and abilities” (Dreu, Homan & Knippenberg, 2004)
We had our 7th and 8th meeting to discuss and review each other works, a trust between the group members was established and respect of each other’s opinion. The Chinese people still had difficulties expressing their opinion. This can be related to what Hofstede mentioned in his individualist vs collective societies dimension. It states that “in collective societies, on personality tests, people score more introvert” (Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov, 2010). and china is considered a collective society according to Hofstede studies. To solve this, other group members would ask them directly of their opinion and encourage them to express it more.
The project was completed and delivered on time, All the group members were satisfied and happy with the results. Our initial thought of being at a disadvantage while working in diverse group with unknown people proved to be wrong, this was one of the most beneficial and productive experience in the course of our lives as everybody agreed.
From the experience of the DCG group described above, some lessons are learned and advices that can be used to directly tap into the power of diversity in groups and reduce the conflicts and challenges as much as possible. First advice would be acknowledging diversity rather than trying to eliminate it. In Dreu, Homan & Knippenberg’s journal, it states that “Eliminating diversity may be neither feasible nor desirable, but preventing high comparative fit in work-group composition should be a more realistic ambition” (Dreu, Homan & Knippenberg, 2004).
DCG group tried to eliminate the diversity at first by making sub-groups on the basis of in-groups and out-groups and that did not work out completely. we totally agree with the Knippenberg’s journal mentioned above and that would be our second advice, approach the group members with openness and do not judge on the basis of your common norms.
Finally, invest more time in learning members strong and weak points, and better use of the power of variety in knowledge and non-redundancy resulting from diversity to apply in the project.