Benefits of Small Group Work

Learning Objectives

Describe some benefits of working in a small group.

On the previous page, we explored some aspects of small group communication and work that can be challenging and frustrating. However, there is also great potential and benefits from working in a small group. These include shared decision-making, shared resources, synergy, and exposure to new ideas. We’ll explore each of these benefits in more detail.

Shared Decision-Making

As group members participate in decision-making, they can raise questions, critically assess ideas, and bring up alternatives or points of view that individual members might not have considered. Thus, groups often make higher quality decisions. Group members also tend to feel more invested and accountable to decisions that were made as a group, as compared to one person or leader making a decision.

Shared Resources

No single group member has all the experience, skills, time, and talents to help the group progress or reach its goals. Together, they can bring their own resources and access a network of other resources to benefit the group. For example, volunteers working at a community theater might bring expertise in carpentry, fundraising, social media, and project management to support a production. Successful small groups take advantage of group members’ access to resources.


Synergy refers to the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, the interactions between group members can create outcomes that are greater than individual members could have accomplished working separately. As group members communicate, problem-solve and make decisions, their interactions have the potential to produce results that are superior to what they could have done individually. Small group members might motivate, inspire, and provide critical feedback to each other. Working and communicating in small groups can be fun and provide positive social interactions and creativity.

Exposure to New Ideas

Being part of a small group can widen members’ perspectives as they share ideas and listen to each other. Each group member will bring a unique field of experience and background, and as a diversity of opinions, ideas, and viewpoints are shared, every member can learn and grow. Ultimately, being exposed to new ideas and perspectives can lead group members to make more ethical decisions and progress.

The benefits of diverse perspectives: where do you keep your Ketchup?

Ketchup on the shelf.In a 2016 episode called “Raising the Bar,” the podcast Reply All introduced a thought-provoking metaphor to describe the benefits of diversity in the workplace. In this segment, the hosts are interviewing Scott Page, a professor of complex systems at the University of Michigan. To illustrate the importance of diverse approaches in problem solving, Page uses the example of ketchup.

“Now turns out if you’re British or if you’re African American from the South, not as a rule but generally speaking, you’re likely to keep your ketchup in the cupboard. If you’re not British and you’re not African American from the South, you tend to keep your ketchup in the fridge. And you could think ‘Vive le difference, who cares, right?’ Well it actually does matter because suppose you run out of ketchup. If you’re out of ketchup and you’re a ketchup in the fridge person, what are you gonna use? Well you might use mayonnaise, you might use mustard because those are things you think of when what’s next to the ketchup. If, alternatively, you’re a ketchup in the cupboard person and you run out ketchup, what’s next to the ketchup in the cupboard? Well, malt vinegar.”

With this example, Page shows how a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives can offer completely different lines of sight into a particular problem. For our purposes, this also serves as a useful way of thinking about the benefits of working in a group. Multiple perspectives on a problem offer multiple ways of tackling it.

Click here to listen to the podcast episode. The “Next to Ketchup” segment begins at 9:10.


Practice Question