Unique Dilemmas and Dynamics in LGIs
Bunker and Alban (1997) discuss four dynamics of large groups that can occur that practitioners need to pay special attention to, they are: 1. The dilemma of voice (amount of individual airtime and the feeling of being heard) occurs primarily because in large groups people may feel like they have not had a real opportunity to speak or be heard. Because of this, people may feel marginalized and further withdraw from the group, even when they do have the opportunity to speak they don’t take advantage of it. Bunker and Alban also noted that the dilemma of voice possibly results in what has been described as diffusion of responsibility. Diffusion of responsibility is a phenomenon that asserts that as the number of people in a group increases, their individual sense of individual responsibility for the success of the group decreases and this impacts their behavior. 2. The dilemma of structure (amount needed to manage anxiety in the room and active individual participation) can occur when there is either too much or not enough structure. Paradoxically, they state that if not enough structure is present in a situation that needs more structure, it is feared that anxiety will increase and people may act out. Alternately, if too much structure is present in situations that don’t need it, it is also feared that anxiety will increase and people may act out. The dilemma is not knowing how much anxiety is present in a group and how much structure is needed to manage it. 3. The egocentric dilemma (each person acting as though his or her reality is the only true reality) occurs because individuals oftentimes view their worlds through their own limited experiences and filters. When people experience this dilemma they fail to view differences as potentially productive that could lead to more healthy and vital outcomes. 4. Affect contagion (experiencing and expressing feelings because one feels them vicariously in others). Positive or negative affect always has the possibility to spread in a large group setting. Contagion occurs when people who had differing experiences are fused with the same emotions. Turquet (1975, p. 375) describes the contagion effect as a condition of oneness where “members seek to join in a powerful union with an omnipotent force, unobtainably high, to surrender self for passive participation, and thereby feel existence, well-being, and wholeness. In response to the dynamics created by these dilemmas, LGIs manage these considerations by: a) using many small group processes to stimulate and encourage involvement and participation; b) using principles of self-management and democratic methods to take responsibility for task outcomes; c) maximizing opportunities for individual choice making through voting and other individual selection methods; d) use of large group report out to create share understanding and group learning; e) considering the right amount of structure to contain anxiety and maximize productiveness; and f) encouraging diversity, holistic thinking, and collaboration through group member selection. The primary practitioners of the most popular variations of large group interventions include: 1) Search Conference: The Search Conference, originally developed by Fred Emery and Eric Trist in the early 1960s, is a highly participative and democratic planning process that empowers organizations to identify, design, and enact its most desired future (Emery and Purser, 1996). Merrelyn Emery (1993), who is on the faculty of the Australian National University in Canberra, co-developed the methodology with her late husband over the last 30 years, and has conducted Search Conferences all over the world. In these events, people create strategic goals and action plans that develop the organization or system. A guiding principle of the Search Conference process is the chance for organization members to begin taking more responsibility and control of...
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