Focus on the group, the community, the village, and on activities such as compromise, collaboration, cooperation—as well as on other groupiness goals and teaminess theories—can foster fruitless, dysfunctional, even harmful, results. If a group effort is to be capable or a team to be effective, each person participating needs to have a well-developed self. Unfortunately, all people are not well-developed selves.
Has our culture gotten out of balance towards the group and away from autonomy? Both are needed for healthy action, and vigorous living, but group and team seem to be more highly valued and spotlighted today.
It was with concern about both this need for self-development and the lack of balance that I attended Professor Ray Baumeister's talk at the Association for Psychological Science annual conference this May; his presentation was titled "What Is the Self?" It clarified for me why I find emphasis on the group without equal attention to the individual so troubling. A brief overview of much of his talk . . .
He asked: How does the self emerge? He referred to "More Is Different" by P.W. Anderson and explained that "self" is the opposite of reductionism. At the higher and more complex levels of structure is where the self emerges, not at the levels of basic parts and ingredients. Because the self is complex, the reductionist point of view will not see it and likely will deny the possibility of its existence. Anderson says
At each stage, entirely new laws, concepts, and generalizations are necessary, requiring inspiration and creativity to just as great a degree as in the previous one. Psychology is not applied biology, nor is biology applied chemistry.Baumeister talked about the need for each member of a group to be fully developed and to have a differentiated self. If that kind of self does not make up the group, group pathology will likely result, including
- Diffusion of responsibility
- Brainstorming that is less productive than work done individually by group members
- Social loafing (group members putting forth less effort)
- Poor decision-making
- Resources wasted
- Individuals submerged to the group (when individuals blend and are submerged, the group is less than its total number)
These days I am seeing that unfortunately many advocates of groups and teams do not typically look at what kind of selves are needed to make up functional and productive efforts of collaboration. The team approach is revered but with little thought to the necessary quality of team members. It is almost as if the team cheerleaders think all people are