Monday, October 25, 2010

The Apprentice- Shared Vision and its impact on Group Dynamics

In the most recent episodes of the Apprentice, group dynamic issues are a direct reflection of a lack of shared vision. In the case of the show, this means that they each want to get the job and are not working for the greater good of the team. One strategy that has gone largely underutilized is the fact that by succeeding, no one from the team is “fired.”

When operating from a perspective of shared vision, people are more willing to utilize people’s strengths and also encourage greater idea flow. In the case of The Apprentice, when someone is failing, even the leader can be reluctant to step in, preferring to have someone to blame if they lose the task. While this may not be directly relevant to how the real world works, it can give lesson to changing group dynamics in business school.

In every class, in every new semester, our groups change. Also, the expectations of that group change based on the professor’s grading style and learning needs of the class. Even deeper than that, however, is what additional expectations each member brings to the group. Some people care very deeply about their quantitative grades while others are just happy to survive having learned more than they knew before. Others have no interest in the class, their grades, and just want to get through it. Finding this shared vision and build that into the motivating factors can be difficult.

Oftentimes, people can confuse “purpose” with “vision.” In the Apprentice, everyone has the vague purpose of being a good team member or helping to complete the task, or in the simplest terms, maybe not to seem stupid on National television. Each person does, however, have a concrete personal vision, and that is to get the job. However, even that lacks true specificity and clouds their ability to actually obtain the job. In a book I read for my leadership class, “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge, “Purpose is abstract. Vision is concrete. Purpose is ‘advancing man’s capability to explore the heavens.’ Vision is ‘a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.’ Purpose is ‘being the best I can be,’ ‘excellence.’ Vision is breaking the four minute mile.”

To this end, creating shared vision means finding that uniting specificity that can both motivate as well as envelope the intrinsic desires of the group. One way to view vision on The Apprentice and make it more specific is to not just think about the job, but viewing that job’s direct impact on your life. One way to frame it would be: “I will get this job by brainstorming at least 3 ideas for every task and helping to implement the agreed upon team action by being candid in my thoughts about the direction of the team.” This attitude is both quantifiable and qualifiable. It frames certain personal values that will motivate the individual and give them a benchmark to constantly work toward.

In applying this to group work at school, it is important to figure out everybody’s strengths up front and what tasks will motivate them. In such a short time period, it may not be possible to achieve true shared vision, but by creating an open dialogue up front that addresses intrinsic needs as well as quantifiable benchmarks, the group dynamic has the potential to be much more successful.

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