Who’s in your group?

Walking through the Business School this past week, either before classes, or after classes (or both), I’ve seen a lot of my fellow MIMers around the usual study hot-spots.  Besides the ever-darkening circles under their eyes, and other signs of sleep-deprivation, I’ve noticed that when I do run into other cohort members, they’re usually getting ready for a group meeting.  The same is true for myself.  So, today I’d like to share my own insights on the topic of group projects, and working with a group.

I haven’t had much experience working with groups not of my choosing in a professional setting, as I spent only a year or so after undergrad before heading back to school, so I feel as though I had a little more to learn when looking at a group dynamic, and how to effectively work with other people.  In talking with my friends in the program, we devised a short list of ideas for group-picking that we thought would give us the most benefit.  Also, there are some tips here that I’ve noticed other MIMers taking advantage of when choosing their groups – and I’ve included my personal pros and cons to accompany these tips.

1)  Work with new people every time:  there are about 70 people in the program, so odds are, you can always work with a different group of people on each project.  Pros: get to know everyone, learn from others, and be exposed to ideas and ways of thinking that you wouldn’t have come up with on your own.  Cons: you won’t get along with everyone, and some people have very different schedules and timelines for projects that may stress you out.

2)  Pick your group early… really early: once you have an idea of who you work well with (or don’t work well with), odds are others have an idea too.  It’s not unheard of to hear that people have already been asked to be in groups before the syllabus for a class is even sent out.  If you know you want to work with someone, don’t be afraid to let them know.  Pros: work with people you want to work with.  Cons: not really any con to this…

3)  Sit next to those you want to work with on the first day of class: so far, in all of our classes, if there’s a group project, the professors will let you know the first day, and likely have you form groups for that project on the first day.  Easiest way to get a group you want – sit next to those that you want to work with.  Pretty straight forward.  Pros: again, getting to work with those you want to work with.  Cons: if you don’t pay attention to this, you may end up working with people you don’t want to work with because of who you’re sitting by.

4)  Don’t work with your friends: this one’s tough.  Everyone wants to be around their friends, and when you get to pick your own groups, it’s easy to gravitate towards those friends.  However, I’ve found that I get far less done when working with friends, and often ideas that come out of brainstorming sessions are all pretty similar between a group of friends (at least compared to groups with foreign students).  They’re your friends after all – you get along because you’re somewhat like-minded.  Pros: new ideas from non-friends, and you get to clearly separate “work” and “play.”  Cons: sometimes group work’s not as much fun as it could be, especially if you don’t get along with your group mates.

5)  Don’t be the only native speaker: about half of the MIM program is comprised of foreign students.  It’s important to be sure that for groups, you’re not the only native English speaker, especially if those groups have writing based projects.  Now, that’s not to say that the foreign students don’t pull their weight – far from it.  It’s just that editing a twenty-page paper by yourself is much worse than being able to split up that work two or three ways.  Pros: division of labor, and catching mistakes that you might miss as an editor.  Cons: there are none.

6)  Have an idea of the schedules of those you want to work with: I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to work with some of the part-timers in my groups, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they all have full-time jobs and have valuable work experience to bring to the group setting.  However, that also means that they have a very different schedule from full-timers, and can’t be as flexible in their group meeting times.  Pros: very diverse set of ideas come to the table, backed by years of real world experience.  Cons: part-timers work 40+ hours a week, and most of them have families, so get used to meeting when they can meet.

Also, when working with a group, it’s not always possible to meet in person.  I’ve found that Google Docs is a great way to share a work in progress with a group, and allow for input from everyone, if schedules just won’t cooperate.  I hope that some of this information will be helpful to incoming students (or even some current students!).  If there’re any questions – post ’em.  And, if you have any other questions about the work load in the MIM program, feel free to send them our way, and we’ll do our best to answer them.




Filed under Common Questions, Coursework, Patrick's Entries, Student Life

3 responses to “Who’s in your group?

  1. This is incredible advice that I hope everyone listens to. I can tell you for sure it would have been beneficial to learn this before entering the program, but most of us picked it up as we went along.

    In addition to the idea of working with people who aren’t your friends, I’d encourage you to work at least once per term with someone you don’t get along with. This will challenge your professional skills, build interpersonal confidence, and help you get past any personal qualms you might have and get to know another MIMer you might never have associated with. The con, in this case, is that it’s exceptionally difficult to work closely with someone you don’t like.

  2. Jeremy Brahm

    The only one you really missed was work with part-time students instead of full-time students. In my year 2001 we only had eight part-time students, so most of the time our groups were based with the part-timers. I think that the part-timers would have benefited more from interacting with the full-timers. Plus from the part-timers they really did not get to know the full-timers until the Asia trip. Then they felt, “I wished that I had got to know them more earlier in the year.”

    I would also add the following, take time outside of class and projects to just have fun with them. The three people that I worked with on my exit project are great friends that I will keep for the rest of my life. This was based on the fact that I learned about them in addition to the classwork. We’d go to dinner, take them to sporting events, etc. so they got to experience more of Portland than just the SBA building. I was visiting Singapore for work and two of them (the other was in South Korea) came to visit me for a day from Bangkok.

  3. Pingback: Mix it up a little bit « Portland State MIM

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