Socio-technical systems to enhance group performance

Helen Hasan, University of Wollongong

Hasan, H. (2006). Socio-technical systems to enhance group performance. In R. Mitchell (Eds.), 41st Annual Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia Conference 2005: Technology Improving Performance (pp. 109-116). Baulkham Hills, Australia: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia Inc.


Creative activities involving collective learning and innovation often occur in small, informal groups rather than in individuals, working alone, or in the formal endeavours of large organisations. Dynamic group activities are complex phenomena, particularly when group members are not co-located but regularly collaborate online. Technologies to support such group collaboration are not as well understood as those designed for use by individuals, such as word-processors and web-browsers, or the large systems which automate the operations of organisations. It is therefore useful to regard the human factors of groupware as one aspect of a dynamic socio-technical system rather than mere isolated interactions of individuals with the technology. This paper begins with a discussion of socio-technical systems concepts followed by the justification for locating creativity and innovation in informal group activities. It then presents the results and implications of research into the development of socio-technical systems designed to support the collaborative activities of diverse groups and communities. This research has analysed the effectiveness of combining face-to-face gatherings with periods of collaborative activities that take place at a distance using group information and communications technologies. A critical analysis will be made of the way these socio-technical systems support the collective actions and knowledge of innovative groups, teams and networks. The paper will conclude with suggestions that such arrangements could be of strategic value to business, government and community organisations in projects aimed at using collective knowledge and capability to support innovation.