Paradoxes of Group Life: Understanding Conflict, Paralysis, and Movement in Group Dynamics / Edition 1

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During the past decade, leaders have increasingly relied on self-managing work groups, multifunctional teams, and cross-national executive groups to create the organization of the future. Yet groups are not a panacea for organizational problems; conflicts between individuals or factions within a group often create seemingly contradictory situations-paradoxes-that can prevent the group from reaching its goals. In this groundbreaking classic, Kenwyn Smith and David Berg offer a revolutionary approach to understanding groups and overcoming the problems that often paralyze group members, the group as a whole, and relations among groups. They explore the hidden dynamics that can prevent a group from functioning effectively. And they show how an apparently paradoxical suggestion-for example, inviting a success oriented group to risk failure, or affirming the benefits of going nowhere to a group focused on moving ahead-can break action barriers, overcome conflicts, and improve group performance. Smith and Berg offer a different way of thinking about groups that will open new avenues of inquiry for professors and students of group behavior, and they propose many innovative ideas that will prove valuable to consultants, trainers, therapists, and others who work with groups on a regular basis.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Paradoxes of Group Life is probably the most important volume on group dynamics written within the last twenty years. It has influenced an entire generation of scholars and manager-leaders often without the explicit recognition it deserves. For those who are ready, this work offers thoughtful, clear and enriching concepts about the most troubling and potentially liberating elements of group life." (Clayton P. Aldefer, Ph.D., ABPP, distinguished professor of organizational behavior, Rutgers University Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology; editor, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science)

"Smith and Berg have provided a new and interesting frame of reference for the study of behavior in groups that is comprehensive, often counterintuitive, and interesting." (Leopold Gruenfeld, professor of organizational behavior, New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, Administrative Science Quarterly)

"Professionals and academics will find a very intelligent and valuable examination of many classical theories of personality and group interaction. Involving ourselves in the Smith and Berg model was, without a doubt, educational and intellectually provocative." (Samuel A. Culbert, Graduate School of Management, University of California, Los Angeles, and Oscar Ortsman, Departement des Sciences Economiques, Humaines et Sociales, Ecole Centrale de Paris, Academy of Management Review)

"Paradoxes of Group Life is an empowering book of possibilities....It is a book that proposes that we think about groups in a different way and that by thinking in that way, we open numerous possibilities for altering the nature of social systems. It is in illustrating this way of thinking that this book has done a very good job, and it is in the possibilities that stem from this way of thinking that this book gains a power beyond what its immediate subject appears to be." (Jeffrey D. Ford, associate professor of management and human resources, Ohio State University, Contemporary Psychology)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787939489
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Series: The New Lexington Press Classics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,470,705
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

KENWYN K. SMITH teaches at the University of Pennsylvania in the School of Social Work, and in executive programs at the Wharton Business School. He has devoted his career to the study of organizational change, group and intergroup dynamics, and conflict management. Over recent years, Smith has focused his studies on how organizational dynamics impact the physical and emotional health of employees DAVID N. BERG maintains a private practice in organizational psychology and also teaches in the department of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. A professor of organizational behavior for fifteen years, Berg continues to work as a consultant to various organizations and groups. He is the deputy editor of the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science and has an abiding interest in group and intergroup relations, as well as organizational diagnosis. He lives in Bethany, Connecticut.

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Table of Contents

Part One: Locating Paradox.

1. Defining Paradox.

2. Tracing the Roots of Paradoxical Thought.

3. Understanding Paradoxical Processes: Negation, Self-Reference, and Double Bind.

4. The Sources of Paradox in Group Dynamics.

Part Two: Exploring Paradox.

5. Paradoxes of Belonging: Identity, Involvement, Individuality, and Boundaries.

6. Paradoxes of Engaging: Disclosure, Trust, Intimacy, and Regression.

7. Paradoxes of Speaking: Authority, DepAndency, Creativity, and Courage.

8. Contextual Influences: The Process of Importing and Exporting Frames of Reference.

9. Intergroup Influences: The Paradoxes of Scarcity, Perception, and Power.

Part Three: Applying Paradox.

10. The Cycles of Group Movement and "Stuckness".

11. Using Paradoxical Thinking in Organizational Analysis: A Case Study.

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