Integration and cohesion
Definition of cohesion
Cohesion has always been considered as one of the most important variables in all group analysis. Its definition normally is in connection with the union strength of a group. One of the earliest definitions in this sense was that of Festinger who defined it as the whole scope of forces that act over the members to remain in the group (Festinger, Schacter, & Back, 1950). A more up-to-date definition was given by the professor of the University of Western Ontario, Albert V. Carron who defines cohesion as “a dynamic process that reflects the tendency of a group to unite and remain united in the achievement of its instrumental objectives and/or the satisfaction of the affective necessities of its members" (Carron, Brawley, & Widmeyer, 1998).
Cohesion has the effect of making the group members feel well through the feeling of internal unity and facilitating change and collaborative actions. A cohesioned group tends to emotionally unite its members in connection with a task and with themselves, assuring better group stability and improving corporative diversity (Lakin, 1972).
Cohesion as a dynamic process
Scott Budge contributes his dynamic vision to the analysis of cohesion. One of his criticisms of research studies is the consideration that cohesion is a positive static state, which the group keeps once it, is reached. He defends that cohesion presents an active mobile process determined by external threats (common destiny) and by the disintegration and integration that corresponds to occasional internal conflicts of the group. The group then modifies its perception as a whole and experiments fluctuations that will differ from that which we would usually consider as positive cohesion (Budge, 1981).
Regarding this, I should say that my observations about cohesion in groups have rarely suffered variations but I should recognize that probably this is due to the incremental design of the simulation. When groups progressively pass from situations of uncertainty to complexity, increasing their knowledge and improving their relations from start to finish, it is possible they have not had the opportunity of suffering the fluctuations referred to by Budge. Nevertheless it has been observed that those well cohesioned groups that failed in their strategy fell into a state of confusion and conflict that made them go back in terms of cohesion.
Regarding this Klein observes that a well cohesioned group becomes incapable of adjusting to environmental changes. Its uniformity of rules establishes that all have the same reference framework, which redounds in a lesser group capacity for identifying what will happen next. This way they routinize their behaviour towards the environment and towards themselves (Klein, 1956).
In their work about cohesion, Carron and Browley emphasize the multidimensional perspective of the construct, defining different factors that can cause a group to remain united. In their work they identify a series of social perceptions that each member develops, related to the entire group. These social perceptions that they call Group Integration (GI) reflect individual perception about what the group beliefs about its nearness, similarity and degree of adhesion as a whole. The second series of social perceptions that they call Individual Attraction to the Group (ATG) reflect personal motivations of each individual to remain in the group as well as their feelings about the same (Carron & Brawley, 2000). In addition to the two approaches, they still identify two further components, one task oriented (goals and objectives) and one concerning social aspects (Relations within the group) giving place to four possible combinations GI-T, GI-S, ATG-T and ATG-S.
In this work, the analysis variables do not allow such a concrete and specific degree of cohesion identification, but they are clearly seen, the forces that differentiate some groups form others, producing in one way or the other a higher degree of integration. Therefore I will use the term Group Integration in a common meaning without further specifications.
If there is anything clear in the courses it is the integration process they follow. At the beginning there is hardly any contact and when it happens, it is merely as an exploration. Until a minimum level of technical knowledge is reached, contacts do not have a defined objective. It is when the group senses what they have in hand they start to relate with each other with common interests. The first they do is to define collaboration spaces in those more evident aspects where they all win. This point is very satisfactory because it makes them think that they are collaborating but it is very short-lived because it has a low potential for development.
The game continues and they should look for other alternatives that open new ways of collaboration. At that moment they start to explore that, which without individual harm does benefit others, that is to say it benefits some and does not harm anyone. In this point we see the dilemma of correspondence. How to assure a return on investment? How to measure individual contributions so that in that negotiating process, value is equally shared? Two interesting phenomenon appear now, the necessity of equality and the creation of regulations. At this level, the group seems to confirm the theory of equity according to which the individuals compare their individual contributions and the benefits they receive with those of the others and respond by eliminating inequalities (Adams, 1965).
The group considers that to be able to continue cooperating and as the options of individual benefit are clear, while those of common benefit are not, the benefit obtained should be shared. Likewise the cost or harm of collaboration should be shared. If this was not the case, an individual subgroup could think that there is no point in collaborating as the load would be higher than the cost and that would cause it the loss of opportunities to achieve its individual objective. To assure equality the participants create a whole series of regulations that assure an equal share out. That regulatory process has a key effect by limiting action in such a way that allows identifying belonging to the group. Whoever does not follow the rules is not considered as part of the group and to the contrary of those that do, on occasions in spite of the result, it is considered the price to be paid for cohesion. It is the emotional border between group and team.
The level reached is satisfactory by it is still not optimal. Clearly a management mechanism based on equality has the result of equal sharing but not the maximization of results. One of the systems thinking principles becomes patent that says the maximization of the parts does not necessarily implicate maximization of the whole. Much to the contrary, by detracting resources from the system to equalize results, the performance levels required by the game are still not achieved. The team should continue to search. Here is where all that which many times is intuitively related to teamwork and that has to do with generosity, with altruism and with faith more that calculations, comes into play.
The group starts to take decisions thinking of common benefit and understanding this concept no as the sum of all but as a new differentiated entity. Now it is not a matter of doing that, which benefits everyone, or even negotiating and obtaining benefits in exchange for something, it is a matter of doing that, which benefits the whole group, trusting in that the reciprocity will arrive and that the effort will give its fruits. A
maximum level of implication is obtained at this moment. The participants have fusioned, integrated in something new, a team. During the process of integration I identify some of the themes that Edgar Schein proposes as part of the internal integration process (Schein, 2004).
|Edgar Schein Internal Integration Issues||Synergy observations|
|Creation of a common language||The group identifies the terminology capable of explaining concepts handled in the simulator creating specific concepts.|
|Definition of group limits and criterion of inclusion and exclusion.||The group clearly establishes the decisions that will identify who work in cooperation or individually.|
|Power and status distribution||The members relate in accord to clear identifications of power and leadership.|
|Development of regulations.||Fully defined, the group identifies what should be done, what is advisable do and what should not be done.|
|Definition of compensations and punishments||When any of these regulations is infringed the group aggressively reacts against who does not respect it.|
|Explanation of that unexplainable.||That which escapes the knowledge that the group has accumulated until now is placed at the front as something necessary at that moment and the existence of which will be clarified further on.|
Group Emotional Intelligence (GEI)
In one of the sessions I had with Joan Manel Batista Foguet, director of the Survey Research Centre of ESADE, during the analysis of the statistical data derived from the observations, I tried to give him my point of view about some personal conclusions. When I reached Normalization, within the Group Integration variable, he stopped and explained to me that at that moment he was working on research with Vanessa Druskat. Doctor Druskat, together with Steven Woff, had coined the concept of Group Emotional Intelligence that contained regarding the section of rule creation, some very similar conclusions.
Druskat and Wolff present the concept of Group Emotional Intelligence (GEI) defining it as “the capacity of a group to generate or share a series of rules that regulate the emotional process in such a way that it creates confidence, group identity and group efficiency”. Likewise they believe that these collective beliefs facilitate the development of cooperation and collaboration among the members of the group (Druskat & Wolff, 2005).
One of the key factors they identify for facilitating cooperation and collaboration is confidence. This, both affective and cognitive, implies a sense of expectation, obligation and reciprocity. All that will be analyzed in the next section.
The second collective belief that Druskat and Wolff consider necessary to create effective relations in groups, is the identity of the group, defined as a group collective belief that this is a unique, important and attractive entity. This belief is what I identify as cohesion.
Bothe beliefs, together with other aspects, are developed by means of the IEG rules created by the group, in the form of cultural influences that channelize the interpretation of emotional stimuli and of subjacent behaviours, in such a manner that they have a positive impact of group effectiveness. To that regard, the definition of organizational culture given by Edgar Schein is worth remembering, when he refers to it as "the critical characteristic that defines a group whose members share common history”. This will depend on how long does it exist as a group, the stability of association of its members and the emotional intensity of the experiences they have shared” (Schein, 2004).
Therefore, regulations affect the stages of emotional process (awareness of emotions, interpretation of events and behavioural answers in the face of emotion) in a constructive manner.