Skip to main content

Paradoxes of Group Life: Understanding Conflict, Paralysis, and Movement in Group Dynamics

Paradoxes of Group Life: Understanding Conflict, Paralysis, and Movement in Group Dynamics

Kenwyn K. Smith, David N. Berg

ISBN: 978-0-787-93948-9 October 1997 Jossey-Bass 336 Pages


In Stock



During the past decade, leaders have increasingly relied on self-managing work groups, multifunctional teams, and cross-national executive groups to create the organization of the future. Yet groups are not a panacea for organizational problems; conflicts between individuals or factions within a group often create seemingly contradictory situations?paradoxes?that can prevent the group from reaching its goals.

In this groundbreaking classic, Kenwyn Smith and David Berg offer a revolutionary approach to understanding groups and overcoming the problems that often paralyze group members, the group as a whole, and relations among groups. They explore the hidden dynamics that can prevent a group from functioning effectively. And they show how an apparently paradoxical suggestion?for example, inviting a success oriented group to risk failure, or affirming the benefits of going nowhere to a group focused on moving ahead?can break action barriers, overcome conflicts, and improve group performance.

Smith and Berg offer a different way of thinking about groups that will open new avenues of inquiry for professors and students of group behavior, and they propose many innovative ideas that will prove valuable to consultants, trainers, therapists, and others who work with groups on a regular basis.
Part One: Locating Paradox.

1. Defining Paradox.

2. Tracing the Roots of Paradoxical Thought.

3. Understanding Paradoxical Processes: Negation, Self-Reference, and Double Bind.

4. The Sources of Paradox in Group Dynamics.

Part Two: Exploring Paradox.

5. Paradoxes of Belonging: Identity, Involvement, Individuality, and Boundaries.

6. Paradoxes of Engaging: Disclosure, Trust, Intimacy, and Regression.

7. Paradoxes of Speaking: Authority, DepAndency, Creativity, and Courage.

8. Contextual Influences: The Process of Importing and Exporting Frames of Reference.

9. Intergroup Influences: The Paradoxes of Scarcity, Perception, and Power.

Part Three: Applying Paradox.

10. The Cycles of Group Movement and "Stuckness".

11. Using Paradoxical Thinking in Organizational Analysis: A Case Study.
"Paradoxes of Group Life is probably the most important volume on group dynamics written within the last twenty years. It has influenced an entire generation of scholars and manager-leaders?often without the explicit recognition it deserves. For those who are ready, this work offers thoughtful, clear and enriching concepts about the most troubling and potentially liberating elements of group life." (Clayton P. Aldefer, Ph.D., ABPP, distinguished professor of organizational behavior, Rutgers University Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology; editor, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science)

"Smith and Berg have provided a new and interesting frame of reference for the study of behavior in groups that is comprehensive, often counterintuitive, and interesting." (Leopold Gruenfeld, professor of organizational behavior, New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, Administrative Science Quarterly)

"Professionals and academics will find a very intelligent and valuable examination of many classical theories of personality and group interaction. Involving ourselves in the Smith and Berg model was, without a doubt, educational and intellectually provocative." (Samuel A. Culbert, Graduate School of Management, University of California, Los Angeles, and Oscar Ortsman, Departement des Sciences Economiques, Humaines et Sociales, Ecole Centrale de Paris, Academy of Management Review)

"Paradoxes of Group Life is an empowering book of possibilities....It is a book that proposes that we think about groups in a different way and that by thinking in that way, we open numerous possibilities for altering the nature of social systems. It is in illustrating this way of thinking that this book has done a very good job, and it is in the possibilities that stem from this way of thinking that this book gains a power beyond what its immediate subject appears to be." (Jeffrey D. Ford, associate professor of management and human resources, Ohio State University, Contemporary Psychology)