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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Development of the Tavistock and Tavistock-inspired Group Relations Movement in Great Britain and the United States: A Comp

In order to gain a deeper understanding of authority, people must analyze human behavior in groups. To study these behaviors, a group relations movement was spawned approximately 60 years ago and has influenced peoples thinking about leadership and authority in groups and organizations ever since. This study analyzed primary and secondary historical sources, including data from extended videotaped interviews the researcher conducted with thirteen group relations experts throughout the United States and Great Britain, as a way to reconstruct the history of a significant part of the group relations movement. These videotaped interviews are available for viewing. Specifically, the study first details the foundational theories of the group relations movement, and then explores the emergence of methods developed in post-World War II England by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. It follows the exportation of the Tavistock method to the United States and the evolution of the A. K. Rice Institute (AKRI) that was developed to work within the Tavistock tradition in America. Since the AKRI has maintained limited primary sources and generated few historical records, interview data were especially important in reconstructing its history. In addition, an indigenous American group relations model, the National Training Laboratories Institute for Applied Behavioral Science (NTL) model, was examined as part of an effort to indicate how factors in the United States context led to significant modifications in the Tavistock approach when it was transported to America.