A Crowd, a mob, a group and a cohesive team represent four different characteristics of a collection of people. People may come together for different reasons, for varied durations of time and with different or no inherent structure. These variations can not only drive group behaviour but also individual behaviors within the collection of people. For a leader, it is important to understand the characteristics of each type of “collection of people” and apply their understanding of these different formations in way that it enhances organizational effectiveness.
Let’s discuss the characteristics of these four types of collection of people.
1. The Detachment of a Crowd
Crowd is the most basic level of collection of people. People gathering to catch a glimpse of their favourite actor involved in a shooting at a mall is a good example of a crowd. Note that there is some common intent or goal that exists even within a crowd. However, what is missing is a sense of attachment or belongingness among the members of the crowd. While one may have a common purpose with other members of the crowd, there is no interaction among the members. Further, there is no interdependence for achieving the common purpose.
When people from the same organization come together for an event (let’s say a movie) at a certain place, without a set agenda, sense of purpose or norms, they may closely resemble a crowd. Crowd signifies people present at the same time or in the same situation and with no rational behaviour.
The flip side of “crowd mentality” in a team is diffusion of responsibility. In case there are many people in a team, who are often unrelated, with little or no dependency on each other, the sense of responsibility that each person has towards achieving the team goals may get diluted. When there are hundreds of people gathering at the site of a road accident, the responsibility of taking the victim to the hospital gets diluted. Everyone passes on the responsibility of taking the victim to the hospital to others.
2. The Impulsiveness of a Mob
A mob, which may represent a structured “crowd” often comes together for a short period of time. The behaviour of a mob is impulsive and may have little or no agreed norms among the members. A mob of people is viewed negatively due to the unpredictable, unplanned and impulsive behaviour associated with it.
3. The Identity of a Group
A group, which is an organized collection of people, may not necessarily be a cohesive team.
When people come together for a certain purpose, they have certain common goals, a set of norms that defines good and bad group behaviour, and interdependence in abundance, a group is formed!
An important aspect of a group is that people draw a sense of identity from the group and they have a sense of belongingness to the group. There are multiple sources of identity and multiple identities that a person may have. An employee may relate to a religious group, a gender group, a group of people with a certain sexual orientation, a certain “skill group” and a regional group. All these identities may co-exist for an individual. Because people are interdependent, and individual behaviour is defined by group behaviour and vice versa, group characteristics may work for or against the benefit of the group.
A group may experience social loafing and social facilitation. Social loafing, a phenomenon when people lower their effort or contribution towards collective tasks happens when there is no individual level evaluation of performance. Tug of war is an exciting team sport. However, there is no easy way of assessing individual performance. And that is why, a tug of war team is prone to social loafing. In a team, it is important to focus on collective results however, evaluation of performance must happen at the individual level.
This makes each individual feel responsible. They are motivated to put in their best as their effort gets identified, appreciated and rewarded. Social facilitation works this way. When people are working in an area of strength (which may be defined as talent reinforced with skill and experience) in the presence of others, they may be motivated to put in more effort when their individual performance is evaluated.
4. The Cohesiveness of a Team
A cohesive team is a type of a group that builds on the common characteristics of a group – a common purpose, interdependence, group identity and certain norms. A cohesive team exhibits the following additional characteristics
- There is high level of trust especially vulnerability-based trust among the team members. People feel psychologically safe to share their mistakes, personal histories and aspirations
- Members of the team engage in open discussions around ideas and viewpoints without making it personal
- There is a sense of collective commitment to group decisions
- Members of the team hold one another accountable
- Individual results take a back seat as the members focus on achieving collective results.
Ultimately, great teams are cohesive in nature. They neither have the impulsivity of a mob nor the detachment of a crowd. They are built on trust. In order to create cohesive teams, performance must be measured at the individual level while the focus is collective results. Crafting, cascading and imbibing such norms in a team requires leadership training and a deep understanding of group behaviours.