Small group communication often takes place in the workplace when coworkers need to solve a problem or come up with ideas for a project. This type of communication can benefit group members by allowing them to express their ideas freely, but it can also hinder expression if members of the group do not communicate in a healthy manner.
Brainstorming is a type of communication that is designed to help a group generate ideas. During brainstorming sessions, members of the group initially come up with as many ideas as possible. After a number of ideas have been presented to the group, group members evaluate these ideas and decide which ones are the most appropriate for their goals. For brainstorming to be effective, group members should not edit themselves or their peers, and allow the free flow of creativity.
Small groups that get together to share information have members who are in the group to educate other members and to learn from other members. In some cases, these types of groups may be made up of students who are studying for exams. When small groups get together to share information, they may engage in different discussion patterns based on the topic of conversation. For example, a group that is studying history may frame its discussion chronologically, and discuss the points the members want to cover based on the date the historical events occurred. In other cases, information sharing may take place by topic, so that members of the group discuss one broad topic at a time and then move on to the next.
When a small group engages in problem solving, it needs to reach a decision about a specific dilemma. In these sessions, members of the group define the problem, identify and evaluate possible solutions, and then select the best solutions for the problem. Some of the issues that this type of communication may address are the cause of the problem, the consequences that the problem may create and how long the problem has existed.
Groupthink is a type of small group communication problem that occurs when members of the group feel pressured to agree with each other. When this type of communication occurs, members of the group are so concerned about being cohesive that they stifle creativity and may not be able to make the best decisions. Symptoms of groupthink include when group members are warned that dissent will not be allowed, when group members are afraid to share ideas and remain quiet, and when group members are afraid of the group’s leader.