Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mixed Groups and Creativity

This is a paper I wrote for a graduate class at CSUS. Looking back on it, I realize this has implications for many things outside of just education or corporate settings. You could say we are an innovative nation despite our current polarization. I think this essay supports further research in chaos theory as it applies to education and other organizations.

Article Summary One
by Lee Chazen

for ED 250
Educational Research
Dr. Z. Davis
California State University, Sacramento

Team Performance and Satisfaction:
A Link to Cognitive Style Within a Process Framework
Min Basadur, Milena Head
Journal of Creative Behavior, Volume 35, Number 4 Fourth Quarter 2001

As a graduate student and developer of curriculum, I was interested to learn more about classroom and group dynamics. In particular, I hoped to find out more about how groups and individuals behaved based on configuration and program structure. The article in question addresses the need to understand this framework in a corporate setting. The rationale for the study was to see if heterogeneous teams, based upon different cognitive styles, produced more creative results when compared to a homogeneous grouping.

The study "investigates a different basis for creating diverse teams for improved performance. Rather than blending different personality types, the focus is on blending different cognitive problem solving process styles." The rationale, then, is clear and easy to understand. How do we structure better performing teams? With so much in our society (schools, corporations, organizations) dependent on group performance, a study of this sort seems timely and relevant.

The authors set out to find whether or not there was a "magical mix" of team members. Specifically, the experiment examined different configurations of groups - dividing MBA students into 49 teams of four members each. Teams were split into heterogeneous, widely dispersed groups (on one end of the spectrum) to homogeneous with three cognitive styles completely missing (on the other). In every category of assessment, it was determined that the heterogeneous team satisfaction was the lowest, but the hypothesis was proven correct: that the heterogeneous blend of Cognitive Problem Solving (CPS) performed better than the more homogeneous group.

The product produced by each team was evaluated using four criteria and rated by independent judges. An average was then created or calculated for this variable. The result was that "mean scores generally increased as teams became more heterogeneous."

The study was interesting, thorough and substantive. There are implications for organizations, corporations and educators. As I was reading this, the phrase "friction makes the pearl," came to mind. Though it is sometimes more difficult to work in a diverse group, the results can be so much more creative and thorough. The nature of democracy, for example, can pit many groups against each other (as in the case of Democrats and Republicans) and though it takes work to reach a consensus, that final conclusion is an interesting, synthetic, well-intentioned outcome.

The authors point out that a larger study of this type is needed, but this first step shows some interesting trends.
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