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Winter Break!

I hope everyone is enjoying the winter break! With unseasonable temperatures in the midwest, we have been able to get outside and enjoy this mild weather. (at least for Minnesotans!)

Courses have been completed, grades have been posted and learning continues on. This past semester found me making some decisions relative to research ideas for my doctoral program. I was able to explore many of the areas that I have been learning more about this past couple of years and I am getting a sense of structure of what I would like to look at for my thesis. (applying some of Vygotsky's work!)

This last paper I worked on for the Formations course focused on group dynamics within an work environment. Some areas that I found interesting was the work of Amabile and others on Creativity and Motivation within group work. Along with this, was the challenge of group functioning within a Computer Mediated Communication environment. As I am continuing to reveal layers of optimal group functioning, I seem to come to dead ends when it comes to measurement and understanding of the most way to help groups/individuals function optimally.

I think part of it comes from the underlying theme of individual contribution and motivation to the group. How the individual identifies or wants to identify with the group is an important precept in overall group functioning. At the core of this thinking is the idea of individual happiness and where individuals are personally when it comes to desire/motivation to contribute to the group.

An article in the NYT's gave a pretty good synthesis of the concept of happiness versus pleasure and how it is being taught on campus' around the country. The author discusses Dr. Todd Kashdan's class at George Mason University on positive psychology and the ability to teach and learn happiness. Very interesting material when it comes into dealing with core issues of group functioning within the workplace.

We have all probably been in groups where the group has really functioned well together and came up with a good endproduct, service or presentation.

On the other hand, we have all probably been in a group where there was dysfunction relative to the work and consequentially had a mediocre or poor result. How much of this could be attributed to lack of skill, (social or knowledge based) and how much of this is based on the negativity that individual or individuals bring to the group. Is this able to be addressed or modified in order to help with group functionality. Is this even something that is important?

A distinction in this pursuit of happiness is the concept of pleasure vs. lasting happiness. The pleasure part is called a hedonistic treadmill whereas the lasting happiness speaks for itself. Empiricists and researchers have found distinctions in these areas that are measurable in terms of personal well-being but does this matter when it comes to group and work efficiency? For skeptics and bottom liners, so what? How can this play into the economics of the workplace?