When speaking on the topic of group influence, Washington State psychology professor David Marcus refers to it as “when the way one person behaves or sees another is affected by all kinds of factors going on within the group.” His description of group influence, while very broad, keys in on the main idea of the phrase. Group influence is how the group as a whole affects the individual people attached inside of that group.
In the spring of 2016, students in the Tabor School of Business took part in a semester long journey of teamwork, entrepreneurial ideas, and group influence as part of the ET 340 course. In this project, students worked with each other within a group setting to come up with a product made primarily of cardboard and then market the idea and sell the product to earn real life profits. In order to achieve maximum results, a positive setting within the group had to be established and rules had to be created to ensure members performed according to group standards. Meetings were required weekly and sometimes multiple times a week to narrow down ideas that all members of the group felt were realistic to create and sell to the market in the area. Specific tasks like marketing or collecting supplies were divvied up in the group. Among the products created and sold were an air freshener, a car caddy, and a portable desk.
The class was divided into groups of four. In this kind of a small scale group, one individual can carry a large amount of influence. Group influence can be either positive or negative depending on how it affects the group members, the group goals, and project results. Somebody with a negative effect on group influence can be divisive and turn members of a group against each other. On the other hand, somebody that has a positive effect on group influence can unite a group, keep its members on task, and work towards achieving the goals of the group.
It’s important to be aware when something or someone has an influence on the group whether it be positive or negative. In this project, a negative influence would have potentially made group members feel excluded and uninspired to perform their given tasks to the best of their abilities. This would have hurt the group’s overall success when it comes to its ability to market their product, find customers to sell to, and also present the final deliverables. A positive group influence in this project could communicate successfully to all members of the group, set meeting times that are agreeable, help with tasks if somebody is struggling, and keep the group focused on what its overall goals are.
In this specific instance, all groups proved to be profitable and in most cases carried a positive group influence. This project proved to be effective in learning how to work as a team in a real life setting to achieve specific, measurable results. To achieve these results, all members had to contribute and maintain a positive group influence.