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For Further Exploration

Films and Television

Lost (2004—2010, Rated TV–PG)

A group of airplane crash survivors on their way to Los Angeles from Sydney, Australia end up on an uncharted island. The survivors must work together as a group to fend off threatening mysteries that include monsters and another island group known simply as "The Others." Throughout the six–year run of Lost the viewer sees the survivors go from a random assortment of strangers to a real group with shared goals and roles that individual members act out, sometimes effectively and sometimes in dysfunctional ways. The Korean couple of Jin and Sun add an intercultural element to this mysterious drama that clearly shows the difficulties and joys of group communication.

Survivor (2000— , Rated TV-14)

In each season of this venerable reality TV series, a collection of strangers must rely on one another to face a series of challenges. Along with possessing the shared goal of survival, each member knows that signs of weakness or strength, favoritism, or too much individuality can result in being "voted off the island" by other members. As in everyday groups, the conflict between collective and individual goals presents ongoing challenges.

Big Love (HBO, 2006—2011, Rated TV-MA)

This television series offers an inside view of a fictional polygamist household living in present-day Utah. Three wives struggle to carve out individual roles and a share of influence while maintaining harmony among themselves and with their common husband (Bill Paxton). Despite the unconventional nature of this group, the dynamics of Bill and his wives illustrate many of the principles in this chapter.

The September Issue (2009, Rated PG-13)

This documentary follows the staff at Vogue magazine as they attempt to produce the largest, most ambitious issue of any fashion magazine in history. Editor Anna Wintour is renowned for both her creative judgment and her treatment of staff and celebrities alike. Wintour provides a look at the nature and consequences of many types of power: expert, legitimate, reward, and coercive.

Mean Girls (2004, Rated PG-13)

Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) moves to Chicago's North Shore High School, where she discovers the complex hierarchy of social cliques. After being accepted by the A-list "Plastics," Cady unintentionally violates one of the group's most important unwritten rules by falling for the boyfriend of queen bee Regina. Cady becomes a mean girl herself as she seeks revenge for being spurned, but ultimately she figures out that qualities like decency and kindness are more important than popularity.

Remember the Titans (2000, Rated PG)

In 1971 a formerly all-white Virginia high school is integrated, and few members of the football team are happy. Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is hired by the school board to create a cohesive team out of two basically hostile and racially isolated groups. The drama captures the tension between players' individual goals (to achieve stardom and stick with members of their own ethnic group) and the collective need to win.

Almost Famous (2000, Rated R)

Young journalist William Miller (Patrick Fugit) tours with a 1970s band named Stillwater. Through Miller's eyes, we get a picture of the forces that affect the band as it goes on tour. For example, the group's vocalist and the lead guitarist, each of whom wants maximum recognition, illustrate the clash between individual and group goals.

 

Books

Levi, Daniel J. 2010. Group dynamics for teams. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Group Dynamics for Teams is a primer on how to make the most of a group environment. Although introductory in its approach, it is quite comprehensive, including specialized subjects like virtual teams and team building. The author opens with team basics and then moves to the all-important beginnings of working as a team while building on the processes a team experiences. A major section of the book (more than one hundred pages) deals with issues that face teams, including conflict, decision making, and diversity. Especially helpful to students is the appendix,"Guide to Student Team Projects."

Rothwell, J. Dan. 2004. In mixed company. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

This is a readable, comprehensive look at the process of communication in small groups. The book does an excellent job of summarizing literally hundreds of research studies in a manner that makes their value in everyday interaction clear. This book is ideal for readers looking for more information on group communication.

Articles

Merl, Risa G. 2003. United we grow: How to make your group get along. Student Leader: 25.

There isn't just one way for a group to become unified, and it will definitely take time, but that time investment is worth it according to this article in Student Leader. Dedication and willingness to work at it are obvious characteristics of a united group, but so are goals, participation at every level, and fun activities.

Keyton, Joann, and Lawrence R. Frey. 2002. The state of traits: Predispositions and group communication. In Lawrence R. Frey, ed., New directions in group communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

This research-based chapter details the influence of individual personality styles on a group's effectiveness.

Zorn, Theodore E., Jr., and George H. Tompson. 2002. Communication in top management teams. In Lawrence R. Frey, ed., New directions in group communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

For career-minded readers, this essay offers insights into the communication skills of high-level managers.



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