At a broad level, we're studying group interactions. We're interested in what happens when groups of individuals work collaboratively on a task. How do the individual members make sense of the task and perceive one another? How do changes in the external environment shape group interactions? How can we help groups interact in ways that make them more effective?
We are collaborating on two main projects.
One is a laboratory study on group dynamics. We manipulated the speed of a wall clock in the lab to make it go faster or slower than normal and analyzed how groups pace themselves according to internal versus external cues of time.
The other is a field study at a local hospital, looking how medical teams interact. Along with another colleague, Ruth Wageman, and a team of doctors at the hospital, we're studying teams of residents, interns, and nurses that come together for emergency medical training simulations in the OR. We're trying to see if we can improve teamwork and performance by changing their pre-operation briefing method to help them operate more effectively as a group, and if we can promote individual and group learning by changing the way they debrief at the end.
Findings & Implications
We're still at the stage of designing and setting up the hospital study, so no findings yet (field work takes time!). But we expect to find that teams can greatly benefit from taking some time at the beginning to identify and appreciate the relevant knowledge and skills that each member brings to the task, agree on the purpose of the team, and set clear norms of conduct. Most teams tend to jump right into the task, and this is understandable, especially when teams are dealing with urgent medical situations. However, we believe that taking some time, even just a minute or two, at the beginning to properly launch the team will help facilitate interactions throughout the task and ultimately lead to better outcomes. We also think that taking time to debrief at the end of the task will help the team and its individual members learn more from the experience.
From the lab study on group dynamics, we've found that groups pace themselves according to an internal sense of time, rather than external indicators of time such as clocks. A lot of studies have looked at the power of internal pacing mechanisms, and many others have documented the power of external indicators of time, but this finding is exciting because this study is one of the first to directly compare the effects of internal and external pacing mechanisms. We are in the process of writing our results, and will be sending the paper to a journal soon.
The Collaborative Process
Richard: One of the joys of being a faculty member in the doctoral program in organizational behavior is the chance to work with students like Sujin. Her excitement about the work is infectious, and the constant flow of ideas and initiatives she sends my way keeps me on my toes—I often have to move pretty fast just to keep up! I would not have it any other way, and I'm excited to see what we learn from the dissertation project she is now crafting.
Sujin: Whether we're talking about a new phenomenon we're interested in, how to design a study, or how to interpret the data, I always learn so much from my conversations with Richard. His curiosity and passion for research are contagious, and I find myself inspired after talking with him, with a greater appreciation for what we do as scholars.
In terms of advising style, Richard gives me tremendous autonomy in deciding what to do and how to do it. He put me in the driver's seat right away, and let me take the lead on most aspects of the research process. This was (and continues to be) incredibly challenging. But at the same time, I have learned more than I ever would have if I had simply been assisting him and following specific directions.
The collaborative process is both spontaneous and rigorous. And always fun. Richard offers a great deal of insight, support, and enthusiasm, and I feel incredibly blessed to have him as a mentor. In working with Richard, I've never felt like I was collaborating or learning from someone outside of my field. We don't really think about whether our work falls into the realm of "social psychology" or "organizational behavior" — we just try to do good work.
From the beginning, Richard has always respected me and treated me as a colleague, and has held me to the highest standards. In striving to meet his expectations, I have grown a great deal as a researcher.
I respect Richard as a scholar, admire him as a friend, and am grateful to have him as a mentor.