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2014/2015  KAN-CPOLV1020U  Groups and Teams in Business and Politics

English Title
Groups and Teams in Business and Politics

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Course period First Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc/MSc i International Business and Politics, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Brooke Harrington - Department of Business and Politics (DBP)
Course administrator: Maja Dueholm (md.ikl@cbs.dk)
Main academic disciplines
  • Business psychology
  • Organization
  • Political leadership, public management and international politics
Last updated on 09-04-2014
Learning objectives
On successful completion of the course, the student should be able to:
  • analyze empirical cases by selecting and applying the appropriate theories of group and team dynamics
  • critically assess the political and business consequences of varying group compositions, objectives and leadership strategies for business and politics
  • draw out the implications of the key theories of groups and teams for research and policy-making purposes
  • account for conflict and change at the micro-level of business and political activity
Prerequisites for registering for the exam
Number of mandatory activities: 1
Compulsory assignments (assessed approved/not approved)
Final paper, 15 pages, to be submitted after the end of class.
Groups and Teams Literature Review:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Autumn Term
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure
The paper will take the form of a literature review on a topic to be selected by the student in consultation with the professor. Students will also have the opportunity to get feedback before the exam paper is due by presenting their ideas in a dedicated session of the class, which will serve as a scholarly "workshop."

The paper will consist of 15 pages, not including references, at a standard of 2,275 characters per page; in total, this will come to about 6,000 words. It will be due several weeks after the last class meeting. 

Further details on how students can go about selecting a topic, as well as the due date for the exam paper, will be provided on the first day of class.
Course content and structure
Groups and teams are a core area of knowledge in the social sciences, and thus have broad applicability to all facets of business and politics. The proposed course has particular relevance to several key issues relevant to IBP students, including innovation and technology, diversity and decision-making, leadership and policy-making, and the transformative potential of social movements at the intersection of the public and private sectors.

This course is a unique offering to the CBS catalog: though many classes touch on groups and teams, none addresses the subject in depth. It is thus appropriate to MA-level students with a grasp of basic concepts and theories in the social sciences, seeking expertise in this specialty area. The course will be particularly useful for students who wish to deepen their knowledge of the social bases of power, conflict, innovation and change.

We first review the basic social scientific understanding of groups and teams, covering classic perspectives on the dynamics of roles, power and status. Then, the class goes into core group processes, such as decision-making, and the impact of team composition on performance. The class then applies these basic ideas to case studies of innovation and competitiveness, in areas ranging from high-technology to natural resource management.
Teaching methods
The class will consist of lectures, as well as student presentations and group work.
Further Information
Changes in course schedule may occur
Monday 09.50-11.30, week 36
Monday 09.50-13.20, week 37-43
Expected literature

Day 1—Introduction to Groups and Teams (53 pp.)

The first class meeting will provide an overview of the nearly century-long research tradition on groups and teams in the social sciences, with particular reference to their relevance to business and politics. It will also lay out the basic theoretical perspectives—derived from social psychology—that have come to form the foundations of scholarship on groups and teams in organization studies, political science, sociology, and economics. A key insight of today’s readings will be that groups are the linking mechanism between the micro-level of individual action and the macro-level of social structure and institutions.
·         Shotola, Robert (1991), “Small Groups,” in E. Borgatta and M. Borgatta (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Sociology, New York: MacMillan.
·         Blumer, Herbert (1962), “Society as Symbolic Interaction,” in A.M. Rose (Ed.), Human Behavior and Social Processes: An Interactionist Approach, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
·         Maines, David (1982), “In Search of Mesostructure: Studies in the Negotiated Order,” Urban Life, 11: 267-79.


Day 2—Basics of Group Dynamics: Roles and Norms (81 pp.)

In the second class meeting, we will discuss a core dynamic of all groups and teams: the formation of norms and roles. The readings below review key theories about the ways individuals negotiate the transition between “being themselves” and adopting roles within groups. In addition, we will discuss how roles are related to one another, and how they play into the larger group processes of role and norm enforcement.
·         Turner, R. (1990), “Role Taking: Process Versus Conformity,” in D. Brissett and C. Edgley (Eds.), Life as Theater: A Dramaturgical Sourcebook. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
·         Goffman, Erving (1990), “Role Distance,” in D. Brissett and C. Edgley (Eds.), Life as Theater: A Dramaturgical Sourcebook. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
·         Katz, D. and R.L. Kahn (1978), “On the Taking of Organizational Roles,” in Katz and Kahn (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Organizations, New York: Wiley, pp. 186-221.
·         Feldman, D.C. (1984), “The Development and Enforcement of Group Norms,” Academy of Management Review, 9:47-53.


Day 3—Basics of Group Dynamics: Power (77 pp.)

The third class meeting will review the origins and dynamics of interpersonal power—a key factor in groups’ ability to get things done. The articles below constitute the classic foundational literature on sources of power, and how they play out within a larger organizational context. Today’s readings also include two foundational documents in social science: the accounts of Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford “prison experiment,” and Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment. Students will find both highly illuminating as practical applications of theories of power in groups.
·         French, J.R. and B. Raven (1968), “The Bases of Social Power,” in Cartwright and Zander (Eds.),  Group Dynamics, New York: Harper and Row, pp 259-269.
·         Emerson, Richard (1962), “Power-Dependence Relations,” American Sociological Review, 27:31-41.

·        Salancik, Gerald and Jeffrey Pfeffer (1977), “Who Gets Power—And How They Hold Onto It: A Strategic-Contingency Model of Power,” Organizational Dynamics, 2-21.

·         Haney, Craig, Curtis Banks and Philip Zimbardo, “Interpersonal Dynamics in a Simulated Prison, ”International Journal of Criminology and Penology, 1: 69-97.

·         Milgram, Stanley (1963), “Behavioral Study of Obedience,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67: 371-378.

Day 4—Basics of Group Dynamics: Status and Conflict (64 pp.)

In this class, we will review the ways in which status affects the capacity of groups and teams to act, and how defects in the status assignment process can influence collective performance. This topic is particularly relevant to understanding how groups and teams are influenced by external social forces, such as the relative position of individuals based on demographic traits such as gender, race and age.
·         Berger, Joseph, Susan Rosenholtz, and Morris Zelditch (1980), “Status Organizing Processes,“ Annual Review of Sociology, 6: 479-508.

·         Sherif, Muzafer (1958), “Superordinate Goals in the Reduction of Intergroup Conflict,”American Journal of Sociology, 63: 349-358.

·         Elsass, Priscilla and Laura Graves (1997), “Demographic Diversity in Decision-Making Groups: The Experiences of Women and People of Color,” Acad­emy of Management Review, 22: 946-973.


Day 5—Group Decision-Making and Innovation (71 pp.)

Team composition and decision processes have a profound impact on groups’ ability to innovate. The readings below focus on the ways teams respond to minority or “deviant” points of view, and how this affects group-level creativity and problem-solving. The findings of the empirical studies suggest that groups need diversity of opinions and even “deviant” points of view in order to arrive at high-quality decisions and solutions. Teams which lack such viewpoints are often mired in “groupthink,” which can magnify individual biases and errors of judgment.
·         Bray, R.M., D. Johnson and J.T. Chilstrom Jr. (1982), “Social Influence By Group Members with Minority Opinions: A Comparison of Hollander and Moscovici,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43: 78-88.
·         Dentler, R.A. and Erikson, Kai (1959), “The Functions of Deviance in Groups,” Social Problems, 7: 98-107.
·         Nemeth, Charlan (1986), “Differential Contribution of Majority and Minority Influence,” Psychological Review, 93: 23-32.

·         Jackson, Susan, Karen May and Kristina Whitney (1995), “Understanding the Dynamics of Diversity in Decision Making Teams,” in R. Guzzo and E. Salas (Eds.), Team Effectiveness and Decision Making in Organizations, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

·         Janis, Irving (1980 [1971]), “Groupthink,” in Harold Leavitt, Louis Pondy and David Boje (Eds.), Readings in Managerial Psychology 3rd Edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

·         Burnstein, E. (1982), “Persuasion as Argument Processing,” in H. Brandstetter, J.H. Davis, and G. Stocker-Kreichgauer (Eds.), Group Decision Making, Lon­don: Academic Press, pp. 103-124.

Day 6—Leadership in Groups and Teams, Part I (71 pp.)

Today’s readings address the basic forces that attract people to groups and shape their behavior once in them, focusing on principles of leadership. As Olson’s classic work documents, all groups make demands on their members: the role of the leader includes persuading individuals that the sacrifices they make in terms of personal liberty, time and other resources, are made worthwhile by the benefits they receive from the group. The Hirsch article documents these processes in an empirical study of student activism.
·        Olson, Mancur (1965), The Logic of Collective Action, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Chapters 1-2, 5-6.
·         Hirsch, Eric, (1990), “Sacrifice for the Cause: Group Processes, Recruitment and Commitment in a Student Social Movement, “American Sociological Review, 55: 243-254.

Day 7—Leadership in Groups and Teams, Part II (81 pp.)

Today’s readings update Olson’s work with a cognitive and economic focus, highly relevant to business firms. Hechter’s short book addresses how leaders maintain and control members’ behavior through a series of rational incentives and punishments. The empirical paper by Snow, et al. provides a counterpoint to Hechter’s rational choice perspective by focuses on the role of leaders as communicators and culture-builders.
·         Hechter, Michael (1987), Chapters 1, 4 and 5 of Principles of Group Solidarity, Berkeley: University of California Press.

·         Snow, David, E. Burke Rochford Jr., Steven Worden, and Robert Benford (1986), “Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization and Movement Participation,” American Sociological Review, 51:464-481.


Day 8—Team Composition and Performance (82 pp.)

The readings for today’s class offer an in-depth look at the performance effects of group composition, including all types of diversity, from race and gender to functional specialty and education. This is, on the one hand, an issue of great political and policy relevance; it but it is also a business issue, as a source of (potential) conflict or competitive advantage. The empirical studies below, drawn from organizations as diverse as high-technology firms and military units, indicate that diversity can contribute positively to group performance under certain conditions.

·         Williams, Katherine and Charles O’Reilly III (1998), “Demography and Diversity in Organizations: A Review of 40 Years of Research,” Research in Organiza­tional Behavior, 20: 77-100.

·         Watson, W., K. Kumar and L. Michaelson (1993), “Cultural Diversity’s Impact on Interaction Process and Performance: Comparing Homogenous and Diverse Task Groups,” Academy of Management Journal, 36: 590-602.

·         Mullen, Brian and Carolyn Copper (1994), “The Relation Between Group Cohe­siveness and Performance: An Integration,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115: 210-227.

·         Ancona, Deborah and David Caldwell (1992), “Bridging the Boundary: External Activity and Performance in Organizational Teams,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 37: 634-665.

Day 9—Case Studies in Networks, Firms and Political Power, Part I (70pp.)

The work of Michael Useem on corporate elites in the US and UK illustrates vividly the power of groups and teams to shape political conditions, not just for the benefit of individual firms, but for whole industries and interest groups. The next two lectures will focus on Useem’s classic study, which used an extensive series of interviews with C-suite executives to document the structural arrangements that give multinational corporations their sweeping power in the world economy and public policy.

•      Useem, Michael (1984), Chapter 1 “Organizing Business,” Chapter 2 “The Economic and Social Foundation” and Chapter 3 “Inner Circle Organization,” in The Inner Circle, New York: Oxford Uni­versity Press. Pp. 3-25, 26-58, and 59-75.

Day 10—Case Studies in Networks, Firms and Political Power, Part II (82pp.)

In today’s class, we’ll look at Useem’s evidence concerning how the international corporate elite organizes to influence political and economic activity to their advantage.

•      Chapter 4 “The Leading Edge of Business Political Activity,” and Chapter 5 “Classwide Politics and Corporate Decision Making,” in Useem. Pp. 76-115 and 116-159.

Day 11— Case Studies in Networks, Firms and Political Power, Part III (85pp.)

The next class will focus on a ground-breaking study of small firms in Italy and Germany which defied the traditional zero-sum calculus of neo-liberal political economy to thrive when large, mass-production firms were being crushed by global recession. This innovative work by labor economist Michael Piore and political scientist Charles Sabel charts the rise of a loose federation of firms to industry dominance through “flexible specialization”: a mode of organizing that is neither market nor hierarchy-based, yet provides huge economic efficiency and quality production. The political implications of this study are quite interesting, since they suggest that cooperation, rather than ruthless, winner-take-all competition, is the key to economic viability for many firms.

•      Piore, Michael and Charles Sabel (1984), Chapter 2 “Mass Production as Destiny and Blind Decision,” Chapter 8 “Corporate Responses to the Crisis,” and Chapter 10 “Possibilities for Prosperity,” in The Second Industrial Divide, New York: Basic Books. Pp. 19-48, 194-220 and 251-280.


Day 12—Case Studies in Innovation: Biotechnology (70pp.)

Continuing our examination of groups and teams in real-world contexts, today’s class looks at their role in generating scientific innovation. Both articles below challenge economic theories of the firm by illustrating organizational structures that work efficiently without recourse to hierarchy.
The first article posits that, when regulatory conditions permit, flexible organizational net­works—informal, temporary coalitions such as “joint ventures”—are a more effective means of organizing than either markets or hierarchies. The second article illustrates these claims by examining the informal networks of interorganizational collaboration that constitute the biotechnology industry. The authors argue that the pace of change in biotech means that flexible networks are the only mode of organization suitable to the task of developing this technology. The industry is based not on formal alliances but on a loose and ever-changing coalition of small and large private firms, venture capital, and public sector organizations such as research universities and regulatory agencies.
•      Powell, Walter (1990), “Neither Market Nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organiza­tion,” inResearch in Organizational Behavior, 12: 295-336.

•      Powell, Walter, Kenneth Koput and Laurel Smith-Doerr (1996), “Interorganizational Collaboration and the Locus of Innovation,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 41: 116- 145.

Day 13—Case Studies in Innovation: Software Development (70pp.)

This classic study of a software development firm details the connections between group dynamics and technological innovation. It also illustrates how management efforts to build group culture can help (and sometimes hurt) innovation processes.

·         Kunda, Gideon (1991), Chapters 1, 3 and 5 of Engineering Culture: Control and Commitment in a High-Tech Corporation, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Day 14—Case Studies in Innovation: Social Movements and the Management of Natural Resources, Part I (71pp.)

This course concludes with the work of the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in economics, the late political scientist Elinor Ostrom. Her work offers a fascinating look at what happens when both markets and states fail to organize collective goods (resources like water and fisheries) effectively, and how communities organize to solve their own problems—with varying levels of success. Ostrom’s case studies span the globe, including grassroots organization in Spain, Switzerland, Japan and the Philippines. This reading is particularly relevant for those interested in public policy and grassroots collective action.

•        Ostrom, Elinor (1991), Chapter 1 “Reflections on the Commons” and Chapter 3 “Analyzing Long-Enduring, Self-Organized and Self-Governing CPRs,” in Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 1-28 and 58-102.

Day 15—Case Studies in Innovation: Social Movements and the Management of Natural Resources, Part II (72pp.)

•        Ostrom, Elinor (1991), Chapter 5 “Analyzing Institutional Failures and Fragilities”and Chapter 6 “A Framework for Analysis of Self-Organizing and Self-Governing CPRs,”in Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 143-181 and 182-216.
Last updated on 09-04-2014