The mess of forming groups

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

The "unfinished business" with my MSc group..


We were 17 and the task was to organise ourselves into 3 groups of 5 or 6. It's a simple task and we have done it many times during the last 1.5 days. Easy-peasy... This time, however, the self-inflicted or perceived stakes were high for many: we would spend the next 2 years with the other 4-5 people, who will become your learning set to support, challenge and grow with you to graduate with an MSc in People and Organisational Development. Some got really anxious about not being selected, some couldn't sleep, some shared "horror stories" of how hard this would be. I was curious and wanted to trust the process and the group: after all, we are all adults, have lots of combined experience in this field and we all chose to be on a program like this, so I assumed a much higher level of functioning in the group along with a large bucket of self- and social- awareness.


The process began, the facilitator nudged us to do a quick constellation based on geographical location, which was quite fun and got us moving, gave us a couple of other considerations and left us to it. So, people started throwing out ideas on what to do next, some said they didn't mind how we do it and some expressed or were visibly anxious about not being chosen. I suggested to explore ways in which we are all different, so we could consider creating groups based on various aspects of difference. I read many research papers about how diversity creates much better performance, learning and therefore engenders creativity and innovation. Surely this was a no-brainer...


My suggestion was ignored as someone has said something else and the group had been led into a new direction. Loud voices started to appear expressing their concerns about what they want or don't want. I sensed the heat building up in the circle and in my stomach - what is happening here? We were stuck, both physically (not moving from our positions for what it felt like hours) and in thought process. So, I suggested again, with a slightly louder voice, to consider all the ways we are different and what might be important to us. We started listing geography, age, gender, sector and I would have liked to add OD experience. I suggested to sort ourselves quickly into 4 groups based on sector: independent, private sector, public sector and non-profit. We started moving ourselves into 4 corners and got as far as the independent people standing in 1 corner, when someone else talked over the process, so we stopped and got stuck again. The direction has changed and we were no longer doing what we started.