Sometimes when I am a part of a small group, it is easy to slide along together enmeshed in a purpose or vague “goal” of being together. And if the small group experience is not rockin’ with synergy, results, and fun – or worse yet, begins to feel like I have my feet mired in muck and I feel stuck with the group – I want out. Yet if I’m honest, most of the time that sense of needing to cut myself loose has to do with the egocentric “Me vs. We” tug of war exercising muscles belonging to the human, selfish nature within me…that’s within all of us.

Yet a small group is a system. In fact, it is much like a galaxy!

Shaping the small group – as a leader or participant – by seeing it as a System

In a small group, whom do I focus upon most? Why, ME, of course! Yet just because I may think of myself most as I consider my small group, or just because I may see my world as just that…MY world, doesn’t change the fact that earth is just a piece of the galaxy. And the galaxy is a vast system of interconnected elements.

When the term “galaxy” dances across my mind, the scene becomes one of the backdrops for a Star Trek show. You know, where you see the stars out in a vast blue sea of “forever” on the screen, with an occasional meteor or falling star whisks by – threatening the safety of the Starship Enterprise and life upon it had it connected?

Using this metaphor of the Starship Enterprise zipping across the galaxy may illumine the SYSTEM characteristics of small groups.

And why do we care? This knowledge can help us effectively shape the course of life and work in a small group – as a leader or participant.

What do I need to remember?

  • 1 change = BIG change. If there was an oxygen leak on the Star Trek Enterprise, the entire starship was at risk. In a system (and small group), there really is no such thing as an inconsequential change. For example, enter or exit a new member to your small group – YIKES! This could place the small group at risk of disintegration. At the very least, it may change how the group optimally functions.
  • A system is like a living organism; it is continuously adapting to the environment and micro-changes in order to continue. A small group innately seeks stability. It tries to manage its stability by controlling the degree and rate of change.
  • A system (whether a galaxy or small group!), continually seeks Dynamic Equilibrium. Much like a system, a small group has an invisible control panel where it monitors the “desirability” of change. Dynamic Equilibrium in a group or system is the delicate balance between change and stability. A group’s Dynamic Equilibrium Control Panel manages change, promotes success and growth, and knows the limits of pushing for that success without placing the group or system in utter chaos…where the threat of disintegration is real.
  • Small groups and systems seek survival at all costs – usually through Adaptability. With changing conditions, small groups respond with modifications (when needed) to its rules, procedures, and boundaries.

When we consider how small groups ARE like systems, we begin to see how we are NOT separate individuals “attached” to a group. We are part of a web of interactions, and we and our movements are connected to one another. We influence one another. We individually impact the focus, strength, and effectiveness of the group. There is an extreme degree of interdependence among all members of a small group – because it is a system.

So as a leader or participant of a small group, knowing that even though I am but one member I DO highly impact my group’s welfare hopefully keeps me mindful of how I choose to interact with my small group.

Because in all truth, my actions, words, and attitudes as I connect with my small group contributes to the overall “ripple effect” of energy in the group. Either I generate life-giving growth to this system, or I drain it by tapping its resources to simply try to adapt and sustain itself.

So which are you when it comes to leading or participating in a small group?

As you reflect, are you a Life-Giver? Or are you a Resource Drainer?