Welcome to the final video for Module 1 where we've been Rethinking Communication. After surveying different theories of communication, communication as transmission, and communication as social construction, we turned out attention to the hidden forces of group interaction. All those things that influence our communication but we often miss or take for granted because they aren't always visible in our groups. The last hidden force we want to explore is the power of systems and institutions. Our goal here is to recognize that groups almost always function within broader systemic and institutional frameworks that influence our communication with each other. Understanding the systemic and institutional forces that are present in our groups, will help us figure out how we can communicate more effectively with each other. Will help us better interpret the actions of others and help us realize both the limitations and the opportunities facing our groups and teams. First, let's talk about systems. It is virtually impossible to have a group that doesn't exist within a broader system. If we think back to the professional and civic context of interaction, groups are almost always part of some bigger company or organization. Part of a larger community or society. Groups in this context never just meet, they meet as an extension of the system and to influence that system. So what exactly is a system? We're certainly familiar with this term but we don't know as appreciate exactly what it means and how it can shape our group communication. Now at the most basic level, a system is a set of interacting or interdependent components that form an integrated whole. So we can talk about the solar system, our respiratory, or digestive system, or even the electrical system in a building. Furthermore, systems are composed of agents, inputs, outputs, processes, boundaries, and feedback loops. Now agents are the individual parts of the system like the planets of our solar system. And inputs are all the stuff that are taken in by the system to make it work like food and water in our digestive system. Outputs are what the system produces, the outcomes of the system like light and illumination from an electrical system. Processes are what turn inputs into outputs, like the chemical activities in your body that break down food and water into waste. Boundaries define what it is in and out of the system. And finally, feedback loops of how the outputs of the system influence subsequent inputs to keep the whole thing going. Like how graduates have our educational system eventually become the tax payers who successively fund the system and even have kids they send back into the system, a feedback loop. You're certainly familiar with how we talk about our healthcare system, for example, our criminal justice system, our political system. For anyone of these I bet you could quickly identify the agents, the inputs, the outputs, the processes by which inputs are turned into outputs. The boundaries of the system, though sometimes these can be a bit fuzzy, and the feedback loops that keep the system going. So what does all this mean for our understanding of group communication. Well, since your group is part of a larger system, then the success of your group is directly related to how your group functions within that system, and how your group communication helps or hinders that functionality. This means that the overall operation of the system, its reason for being is a hidden force that is always present in your group, shaping how you interact with each other and helping you understand the interactions of others. Let me give you an example. Say your working in a professional group at your company and a key member from another department named Julie surprisingly expresses some strong resistance to your new idea that everyone else seems to like. If you only looked at the surface level interactions, it might seem like Julie was feeling difficult, problematic and not a very good team player. Threatening the development of a good idea. But if you understood that Julie's resistance was based on the fact that your new idea would have negative implications for Julie and her department it makes her resistance so much more understandable. Maybe your new idea would divert funding from projects in her department or would require personnel changes that would disrupt her department. If you don't see the systemic pressures that Julie is feeling than you're missing the key aspect of your group's dynamics. You are limiting your understanding of your group's communication. And you're restricting the overall possibilities for your interactions with each other. So systems thinking and recognizing the hidden systemic forces are critical for successful group communication. But we can go even further. Some social systems or collection of systems become so powerful, they seem to take on life of their own, they now have the power to enable or constrain our behaviors to demand our loyalties. We call these social systems, institutions. Institutions are the kinds of structures that matter most in the social realm. They make up all the stuff of social worlds. Not all systems become institutionalized, but the ones that do exert a powerful influence on all interactions. You're a recreational sports team, for example, that might be a small system with agents and inputs, outputs, processes, boundaries and feedback loops. But college football, that has become an institution here in the United States. It's a system that has taken on a life of its own. It has become institutionalized, such that it is a key aspect of our culture, especially in certain areas. American college football is a social phenomenon that has a rich history, powerful traditions, and strong notions of how people should or should not act. An institutional power, your recreational sports team simply does not have. So how does this relate to group communication? Well, it's critical for us to recognize that members of our group and the overall group itself are influenced by all sorts of institutional pressures that we bring to the table. And often, these are invisible in our day to day interactions. A member of your professional group, for example, may be part of a profession with strong institutional loyalties. Or your civic group, maybe an extension of a broader, cultural institution that shapes how you interact with each other. Now again, all this can be understood as another aspect of context. But it's not helpful to lump everything together into one abstract concept. It's more helpful if we distinguish all these hidden forces so we can recognize their impact on our group communication. And to look more closely for the hidden forces of systems and institutions, we've gotta ask ourselves a number of key questions. What is the system or systems this group is a part of? How does the system work, and what is the role of our group in making the system work? What are the interdependencies of this system, how are things connected? Has this system become institutionalized, or is it shaped by any institutional pressures? What's the internal logic of this institutionalized system? That is, what does the institution privilege or punish? What does it enable or constrain? And what are the paths of least resistance in this institutionalized system? Rarely can we predict what will happen in our groups, nor can we develop formulas that determine certain results. But if we ask better questions, I bet we'll communicate in ways that increase the likelihood of more favorable outcomes more often. So that concludes module one and our rethinking of communication. We covered two different theoretical approaches to communication, communication as transmission and communication as social construction. And we explored several hidden forces of group interaction. Including context, both professional and civic, interaction design, and systems and institutions. All of which help us develop a better view of communication to understand and explain the complexities of group interaction. Now in our next module, we're going to explore group development and decision making, key aspects of all successful group communication. I look forward to seeing you there next time.