Bowling Green State University (BGSU) has an extensive Greek community system. There is a hierarchy associated with this community with academic personnel monitoring the performance of each Greek chapter on campus.
In the late 1990s, the Greek Affairs department at BGSU established programs to help built collaboration and creativity within the Greek community. In 2003 & 2004 myself and a group of 5 other Greek members ran one of these programs called Emerging Leaders.
This program is a weekend retreat for 3 members of each on-campus fraternity and sorority and is designed to promote creative thinking and collaboration with leadership activities, small group sessions, and large group challenges which are used to build a bond over common Greek membership experiences (Emerging, 2012).
To effectively lead this program the six leaders meet on a regular basis to create activities that we believe will spawn leadership in the community through creativity and collaboration.
According to Susan Cain’s article “The Rise of the New Groupthink” creativity is spawned when a person enjoys privacy and freedom from interruption. This creativity is spawned from the groupthink mentality of meeting and sharing ideas. Once the groupthink session is over the person takes the shared information with them and works on it independently to present at a later date (Cain, 2012).
This mode of independent collaboration worked well when we were creating activities for Emerging Leaders. For instance, we needed to create an activity which identified a persons perceived advantages over other groups. As a group we decided this was best done with an exercise that lined the Greek members up in a straight line and told them to take a step forward if they identified with the advantage.
Once we decided on the activity as a group, we took this information back with us to create questions that would be used in the exercise. When the group convened later that week we presented our ideas and agreed upon the most qualified questions. Examples of the questions were take a step forward if you are white, male, parents are not divorced, you are not on financial aid, etc.
When we ran the activity with our first group of Greek members we noticed some flaws in it, however it went off well. The members were able to recognize the perceived advantages of our society and then discuss how to level the playing field with others who do not have these perceived advantages.
At the end of each retreat we sit down with the participants of the weekend program and discuss the activities freely. Reaching beyond our boundaries, we initiated participatory collaboration by starting the discussion with things we as the leaders of the retreat felt could have been done better.
When we opened the discussion about the perceived advantages activity we mentioned that our questions might have been flawed by our own perceived biases and welcomed their input. Many participants obliged and suggested other questions to incorporate in the next program. We took their suggestions back with us, thought about them independently and then gave our recommendation on which ones we should use in the activity. We discussed them as a group and incorporated many of the recommended questions in the next program.
In the 2010 Wharton school of Business article “How group dynamics may be killing innovation” the author discusses how group brainstorming sessions are the last thing innovators need. The author recommends a hybrid approach where group brainstorming sessions begin the conversation, but independent after the fact would bring different dynamics to the situation and create quality ideas. (Wharton, 2010).
The structure associated with being a team leader in Emerging Leaders promotes groupthink opportunities as well as thinking independently to devise many different options for the retreat. In turn, this produced creativity and collaboration within the group. If the hierarchy associated with Greek Affairs wanted to limit the opportunities of open-source innovation with this program it would be interesting to see if Emerging Leaders would be as successful as it has become.
Cain, S., (2012, January). The rise of the new groupthink. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Bowling Green State University. (2012). Emerging leaders in the greek community. Retrieved from http://www.bgsu.edu/offices/sa/vp/page123305.html
Wharton. (n.d.). In Knowledge @ Wharton: Innovation and Entrepreneurship. How group dynamics may be killing innovation. Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2487