Sample excellent group essay from last year, written in response to the following assignment:
From the cases in Part 4 of Hackman,
1. Choose a specific example in which familiarity among members either (a) or (b) hindered
group functioning. Explain whether the effect of familiarity in this example is (a) consistent with
or (b) inconsistent with a particular finding or claim in one of the packet readings for this week.
2. Choose a specific example (from a different case than your first example) in which diversity in
knowledge, sills, or demographic attributes (gender, age, race, culture) either (a) helped or (b)
hindered group functioning. Explain whether the effect of diversity in this example is (a)
consistent with or (b) inconsistent with a particular finding or claim in one of the packet readings
for this week.
ESSAY (reproduced by permission of group members) 281 words.
The Detroit String Quartet provides an excellent example of a group in which familiarity among members helped group functioning. Three of the four members were also members of the much larger Detroit Symphony Orchestra and, with the exception of one member change, they had been playing together for fifteen years. The members shared the same goals and expectations, and interpersonal conflict was practically nonexistent. This effect is consistent with the claim made by Gruenfeld et al. that groups with more familiarity "are likely to experience positive affect, smooth interaction, and strong commitment" (p. 1).
The New Haven Nighthawks provide a useful example of a case in which diversity hindered group functioning. This hockey team consisted of members recently demoted from the National Hockey League, members with their sights set on promotion to that league, and members who just wanted to play the game. The diversity in knowledge and skills that existed among team members, along with the highly transient nature of the team, severely impeded the team's performance. The differing goals among team members created a conflict of interest with members being much more concerned with proving themselves than with contributing to the team. This is consistent with the claim made by Moreland, Levine, and Wingert that diversity "should have more positive effects when groups perform divisible tasks, because conflicts among group members are less likely to arise when they are not working together" (p. 18). The members of the hockey team had no choice but to work together on unitary tasks. This need to work together, when combined with such diversity, helped to promote conflicts that undermined the team's overall performance.