Group Work

By Jake Culian

As our spring term comes to a close I want to take a little while to discuss another topic which anyone who enters the MIM program will have to deal with on a regular basis, the dreaded group project.  During my time in the MIM program group projects have been the norm and for all the complications that arise because of them I have really appreciated that.  Working well as part of a team isn’t really something that comes naturally to a lot of people and to get better at it you must practice.

This quarter we had one class in particular which tested our abilities to perform good group work.  Our marketing class this term was composed of 25 people split into two groups each working on half of a 8 week long research project for the Office of International Student Services and Office of Admissions at PSU.  Our goal was to identify what they were doing well and what was going poorly and then offer advice on how to both highlight their achievements and what they needed help with.

In order to execute this project we started with in person interviews with international students, then secondary research at the school library on international enrollment trends at PSU and in the US, and finally sent out a survey to all the international students currently enrolled in PSU.  We ended up having over 300 respondents with approximately 196 usable responses.  All this research eventually culminated in an hour long presentation given to the two Offices as well as a 70 plus page study which will be distributed to various officials within PSU.

My point here is that it would have taken a year or so for a single person to gather all this information, but as a group we were able to accomplish everything in 8 weeks.  But it required communication, organization and a strong sense of direction on where the project was going and what was required next.  In order for groups to be truly successful everyone needs to know what they’re supposed to be doing.  Now some cultures will be given the overall goal and told to take off running and that works for them.  Others need extremely fine detail at every step along the way.  It is the group leader’s responsibility then to know what each member of their group needs in terms of guidance as well as making sure that everyone has the information they need to accomplish their tasks.

Group work can be immensely rewarding and create great big things, but don’t underestimate how much effort it will take just to get things rolling.  The bigger the group the bigger the inertia until things moving.  I really appreciate working with groups, but thinking about 70 page research papers and 12 person teams makes me a little nervous.  They shouldn’t be something to be feared, but at the same time taking the time to do them right is essential to quality work coming out at the end.

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