Using Collaborative Technology in Group Facilitation

Using Collaborative Technology in Group Facilitation

José-Rodrigo Córdoba (University of Hull, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-652-5.ch031


It has not been long since the use of information technologies and systems has pervaded group processes inn organizations. There is a vast amount of literature that suggests that software tools are beneficial to groups, although there are still questions about what appropriate combination of tool/ human support is required to achieve efficiency and efficacy in electronically-mediated meetings (DeSanctis & Gallupe, 1987; Dickson, Partridge, & Robinson, 1993; Niederman, Beise, & Beranek, 1996; Nunamaker, Dennis, Valacich, Vogel, & George, 1991). (Un)fortunately in this literature, one can find several terms of the technology available, including group decision support systems (GDSS), group support systems (GSS), groupware, computer supported cooperative work (CSCW), Web-based meeting tools, blogs, wikis, RSS, and so forth. The current availability of technology tools (i.e., browsers, electronic forums, discussion groups, chat rooms, etc.) and their increasing pervasiveness at work creates opportunities to share information and help people to perform their jobs either individually or collectively. For those individuals and groups using collaborative technology, there are opportunities and challenges that need to be considered in relation to aspects like the creation and dissemination of information, decentralized authoring, and centralized control (Castells, 2001; Evans & Wolf, 2006; Wilkins, 2006). To date, an important number of tools have evolved from their name as “GDSS” (as they were named during the 90s) and can be described as collaborative, as they provide support group activities across departments and geographical locations. Often, these activities aim to achieve a particular outcome in a business (e.g., a decision, a product). In this regard, technologies being offered still have many of the features of group support systems or electronic meeting systems (EMS) (Nunamaker et al., 1991), because they enable people to come together “whether at the same place at the same time, or in different places at different times” (p. 41) and (re)generate ideas and organize and priorities them (Ibid). For the purposes of this chapter, we will focus on the support that can be available by collaborative technology to group meetings and facilitation. Whether these meetings result in decisions being implemented or goods being designed or manufactured is out of the scope of our discussion. To begin with, we now show different dimensions of support that collaborative technologies can offer to individual and group interactions.

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