Experiential Learning in Organizations: Applications of the Tavistock Group Relations Approach

Views: 593
Ratings: (0)

This is an authoritative sourcebook on a major strand of Group Relations Theory - "learning from experience". This approach was developed jointly from psychoanalytic and open systems theories, including those of Bion, Kegan, Klein and Freud. It will be invaluable for all those involved in working with groups and organisations.The papers in this collection look at the underlying theory and the practical application of learning from experience. They address the broad issues of authority, leadership and organisational culture, whilst concentrating on other issues in-depth, such as inter-group conflict, and gender and race relations in the workplace.Contributors:Thomas N. Gilmore; Laurence J. Gould; Larry Hirschhorn; Ross A. Lazar; Susan Long; Eric J. Miller; Debra A. Noumair; Lionel F. Stapley; and Mark Stein.

List price: $31.99

Your Price: $25.59

You Save: 20%

 

7 Slices

Format Buy Remix

1: “The 'Leicester' model” revisited

ePub

Eric J. Miller

The “Leicester conference” is an intensive two-week residential event devoted to experiential learning about group and organizational behaviour. Its purpose is educational. The first conference in 1957 was a collaborative venture of the Tavistock Institute and Leicester University, where it had strong support from the professors of adult education and sociology. That joint sponsorship continued for several years, until their retirement. Since that beginning, the conference has been held once and sometimes twice a year, and with two or three early exceptions it has always been at Leicester—hence the label.

In the first conference (Trist R Sofer, 1959) the only experiential event was the “study group” of about 12 members with a consultant; the rest of the programme was made up of lectures, seminars, and visits to organizations. The year 1959 brought the addition of an intergroup exercise (Higgin R Bridger, 1964), in which I was a rather bewildered consultant attending my first conference. This was followed in the early 1960s by the large group and a second version of this inter-group which involved the “here-and-now” study of relations between the membership and staff (Rice, 1965). Lectures were phased out; apart from review and application groups, all events were experiential. By the end of the 1960s the “Leicester model” of today was becoming crystallized; innovations since have been minor or temporary. By then, too, the model was being disseminated, particularly in the United States. These were shorter conferences—typically a week, or even just a weekend. Leicester itself remained (and remains) the only two-week conference, bringing together an increasingly international membership of, usually, 50–70 people drawn from a wide range of occupations, with a similarly diverse group of around 12 staff.

 

2: Theories of experiential learning and the unconscious

ePub

Mark Stein

In an age preoccupied by outcomes, the processes of learning are often seen to be of subsidiary interest. As a result, a theory of experiential learning, which focuses principally on processes rather than on outcomes, runs against the current tide of fascination for competence, performance, and anything that can be tightly linked to the products of learning. Prior to the current tide, however, one finds a long history of interest in the idea of experiential learning. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to examine a variety of approaches to experiential learning and to locate the group relations or systems psychodynamic approach within it. It begins with an examination of some of the most influential ideas associated with the concept of experiential learning, suggesting a line of intellectual development from one of its earliest incarnations in the writings of Aristotle. Subsequently, a veritable renaissance of interest has occurred since the end of the nineteenth century. This includes William James’s notion of knowledge of acquaintance, Dewey’s work in education, Lewin’s work on organization and community development, Schon’s work on the professions, and Kolb’s idea of the learning cycle, which may all be seen to fall under the aegis of the development of our understanding of experiential learning or practical wisdom.

 

3: Fraternal disciplines: group relations training and systems psychodynamic organizational consultation

ePub

Laurence J. Gould

The Tavistock Model 1 of group relations training (GRT)2 is, by now, well known and widely disseminated. However, while the theory and practice of this work has been extensively detailed (Miller, 1989, 1990a, 1990b; Rice, 1965), the specifics of its relationship to the distinctive practice of organizational consultation that emerged alongside it is less clear and largely undocumented. This chapter, therefore, provides a brief history of the intertwined developments of these disciplines. To do so, it surveys some of the organizational and social applications of GRT and the spectrum of organizational consultation work with which it shares the same conceptual roots. It concludes by highlighting the significant contributions of GRT as well as underscoring some important caveats with regard to its relevance and applicability for the practice of organizational consultation.

Background

From its earliest days, psychoanalysis has been interested in the nature of group and organizational processes. For example, in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921c), Freud linked certain dynamic aspects of the Church and Army to his earlier hypotheses regarding the origins of social process and social structure—namely, in his analysis of the primal horde (1912–13). Indeed, in his very first sentence he says: “The contrast between individual and social or group psychology, which at first glance may seem to be full of significance, loses a great deal of its sharpness when it is examined more closely” (p. 69). Fenichel (1946) later noted that human beings create social institutions to satisfy their needs as well as to accomplish required tasks, but that institutions then become external realities, comparatively independent of individuals, that affect them in significant ways. However, despite this early interest in group psychology and some sporadic, modest additions to a theory of group and institutional life—as in, for example, Freud’s (1927c, 1930a, 1939a) later “sociological works”— neither he nor his colleagues carried this line of theorizing much further. While the reasons may be numerous, the paucity of early psychoanalytic writings on the subject may attest to the singular limitations of a predominantly intrapsychic model of drive and of impulse/defence analysis for understanding any but the most selective aspects of group behaviour. The beginnings of an enlarged psychodynamic theory of group and organizational processes had to wait for a more fully worked-out object relational perspective that could provide the necessary interactive constructs.

 

4: Diversity and authority conferences as a social defence

ePub

Debra A. Noumair

At the time I was writing this chapter, the then President of the United States, Bill Clinton, was under a cloud of charges of sexual harassment, sodomy, and adultery. These charges were brought forward by women with whom the President worked and, as such, invited us into the organizational life of the government. While I do not purport to provide an analysis of American political events at that time, I do view the interrogation of a white male in a position of authority doing what men (of all races) have been doing for centuries as noteworthy in the context of this work on diversity and authority.

This chapter is a case study of an organization in which corruption of the task occurs at the intersection of sex, race, and authority, similar in location to that of the presidential investigation. For some subgroups in the United States, the more compelling concern surrounding the president is whether, through commission or omission, he participated in the obstruction of justice, not his sexual practices. For others, it is surveillance (Fine, 1997) of the highest authority figure in the country that is problematic; the kind of scrutiny that the president underwent is usually reserved for “others” in society—people of colour, gays and lesbians, and so forth (Morrison, 1992; Sampson, 1993). Surveillance of a white man, particularly around the abuse of power, could result in disrupting the status quo, in subverting authority relations as we know them. As long as our gaze remains averted from whites and focused on “others”, truth remains hidden and unavailable for examination (Powell, 1997). This is true throughout organizational life and may be one of the factors that contribute to a lack of rigor in work on diversity in organizations. If we were to uncover the irrational and unconscious aspects of diversity and authority in organizational life, as group relations methods invite us to, we may have to face the consequences of disrupted authority relations and knowing truths that we do not wish to know.

 

5: Working in retreats: learning from the group relations tradition

ePub

Larry Hirschhorn and Thomas N. Gilmore

Over the last three decades the organization development (OD) tradition has developed a robust technology for designing and facilitating small- and large-group retreats. The governing principles are by now well known to most practitioners. Experienced professionals use both small and large groups to facilitate discussion, people are asked to participate in both heterogeneous and homogenous groups, flipcharts are used to record conversation, and the rhythm of the work moves often from problem framing or diagnosis to action steps.

It is interesting to ask how the group relations tradition influences this practice. To our knowledge no one has yet written the history of this practice. The work that Kurt Lewin led at Bethel and the early work of the Lippits (where butcher paper preceded flipcharts) played a decisive influence in organizational development practice. There is no doubt, as well, that group relations conferences as a design for learning emerged out of the same matrix of issues and interests. There was, after all, a close connection between Lewin and the Tavistock Institute in the early postwar years. However, lacking a good historical record, we want to draw on our own experience, the ways in which we, the authors, currently practice, to both compare and contrast the group relations tradition with other OD practice.

 

6: Building an institution for experiential learning

ePub

Susan Long

“When I’m silent in the group, it’s like I’m a sponge. Things come into me and they feel very heavy. I left the first week here feeling like I had been run over by a steamroller. Last week I spoke a lot and I left feeling light… . My speaking seems to put up a barrier that holds the heaviness out… . I don’t want to be questioned. It’s just that that is my experience.” (Said by a “Tavistock” style study group member in response to another, who had asked if she wanted help to speak out in the group).

I talk to myself, and I remember what I said and perhaps the emotional content that went with it. The “I” of this moment is present in the “me” of the next moment. There again, I cannot turn around quick enough to catch myself. I become a “me” insofar as I remember what I said … It is because of the “I” that we say that we are never fully aware of what we are, that we surprise ourselves by our own action.

Mead, 1934, p. 174

In this chapter I examine the possibility of institutions where learning from experience is valued and engaged. I won’t be discussing a blueprint for developing such an institution; I simply don’t have one. In any case, different institutions and different work organizations will have different experiences from which to learn. Providing a blueprint would be akin to providing a ten-step guide to writing a creative novel or giving the command: “be spontaneous!” One cannot systematically plan for such a process because learning is often about being surprised by the experience. Something new happens, or one is able to see things in a new light. Learning from experience is achieved by the “I” in process rather than the “me”, which is established after the experience, to make sense of it, or to deal with it in some other way.

 

7: Experiencing, understanding, and dealing with intergroup and institutional conflict

ePub

Ross A. Lazar

A Chassidic aforethought
There is the Thought, the Word and the Act … for the man
who gets all three straight within himself, for him all things
will turn towards the Good.

Martin Buber

With this short quote, taken from his wonderful little book Der Weg des Menschen nach der chassidischen Lehre, Martin Buber (1960) epitomizes the source of what he believes to be the “deepest and hardest problem of our lives”— namely, “the true source of conflict between men” (p. 34; emphasis added). He goes on to elaborate that at first we try to explain the appearance of conflict with those motives that are consciously available to us—that is, in those concrete and objective situations and happenings to which both sides are party. We then go on to try to research and analyse the unconscious complexes of which these apparent motives are only symptomatic. Buber states his basic agreement with both these approaches, but he adds that, according to Chassidic teaching, it is the examination not only of singular unitary psychic complications but of the whole person that one must undertake in order to fully understand the conflict. This is not to say that one need not observe each particular psychic phenomenon separately—indeed, one cannot do otherwise—but, rather, that no one factor should be allowed to become too central, nor be used to try to explain everything.

 



Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781780496146
Isbn
9781780496146
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata