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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

European Regional Meeting, Copenhagen, March 2015

Lateral Functioning in Postmodern organisations

Publisher Location:

13th European ISPSO Regional Meeting
Lateral Functioning in Postmodern organisations

March 20, 21 and 22, 2015

Danish Architecture Centre (DAC), Copenhagen, Denmark


The European Regional Meeting 2015 will focus on the theme lateral functioning in postmodern organisations. As we see it, this is not as opposed to hierarchical functioning but as another organisational functioning of increasing importance. With the hierarchical dimension we often associate with authority, delegation, leadership and followership. It draws on the Oedipal conflict as a central figure/drama. The lateral dimension brings associations with competition, rivalry, networking and to group dynamic processes. It draws on further development of the Oedipal conflict – the arrival and existence of siblings. The child’s dramatic experience of being one among others: “His majesty the baby” realising that he is just a common member of the (family) group.

In organisations its necessary to understand, explore and develop lateral functioning as well as hierarchical functioning. Lateral functioning is at work in relations and relatedness within groups, across departments and other business units, cooperation as well as competition between different units. Lateral functioning is also at work when decisions have to be taken without formal division of authority. It can take form as fruitful cooperation, but lateral functioning also raises a lot of challenges and problems. It can become difficult to deal with conflicts, equality and differences, intimacy and distance, without formal authority connected to a differentiated set of hierarchical roles.

The Danish fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen is mostly known as a fairy tale about being a misunderstood genius. Raised and experienced as an ugly duckling – it shows that he is a swan. The Ugly Duckling is also a fairy tale about envy, rivalry, malice, and loneliness. No King. No Queen. No princesses and princes. No parents. Only siblings and cousins.

In Denmark we have a long tradition of employee involvement and an apparent low power distance in organisations. But is lateral functioning necessarily connected to democracy, equal rights and mutual respect? Is lateral functioning sometimes an idealisation of seeming equality? Sometimes it could be an escape from differentiation?

We do not have one clear definition of lateral functioning. But our hypothesis is, that organisational processes and dynamics related to what we here try to capture as lateral functioning is more at work in today’s organisations. In this regional meeting we invite you to mutual exploration and beyond the lateral functioning in organisations in a postmodern society.

ERM 2015 is open to ISPSO members and other professionals interested in working with the theme within a systemic psychodynamic frame of reference.

The ERM will start at 17.00 on Friday the 20th and end at 1230 on Sunday the 22nd.

There will be a keynote presentation by Steen Visholm on the main theme of the meeting, which will be explored in plenaries as well as in small groups. Social dreaming will also be part of the programme. On Friday evening there will be an informal reception and on Saturday evening a social event including a dinner at a restaurant.

Welcome Reception
When the meeting closes Friday evening at 19.30. The reception will be sponsored by cooperation between the Danish Organisations MPO (Master of the Psychology of Organisations, Roskilde University, NAPSO (network for applied psychodynamic systems theory and IGA (Institute of Group Analysis Copenhagen). All participants are invited to an informal gathering between 19.30 and 21.00. The reception will also take place at Danish Architecture Centre.

Optional Social Event
Guided boat tour and conference dinner

As an optional social event we have booked a 60 minutes harbour and canal tour, which will take us around the Copenhagen water front. The boat tour will end by the restaurant, Spisehuset 56 grader, where we will have our conference dinner. On our way we will pass the old naval base of Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid, the royal residence, the famous opera building, the Danish parliament and many other interesting modern and historical sites.

Spisehuset 56 grader is a Nordic restaurant located in the old naval dockyard and naval base at Holmen. Spisehuset 56 grader will prepare a three course menu based on the traditional Nordic cuisine, spiced with modern and creative culinary arts. (

Price for the social event is € 60. This includes the boat tour and a three course dinner. Drinks are not included.

We have identified two different hotels, which are both central, have a good reputation, and are either within walking distance or gives you easy access to the conference centre, DAC, by metro.

  • Wakeup Copenhagen in Borgergade is a relatively cheap, newly built hotel located in the heart of Copenhagen. You can book your room directly on
  • Ibsens Hotel in Nansensgade is situated in the Copenhagen city centre, between the market halls and the lakes, 5 minutes walk from Nørreport metro station. This hotel is a bit more expensive. You can book your room in Ibsens Hotel on
    Please arrange your own accommodation.

Meeting Registration Fee
Meeting fee is €190 including reception Friday evening, lunch Saturday and refreshments throughout the meeting. Registration will be managed at a first come first served basis. We recommend early registration. The number of participants will be limited to 40. A waiting list will be established.

Registration Form and Payment

Registration & payment form (using PayPal) - removed

The registration form has space to include any special requirements regarding lunch Saturday. Questions can be addressed to the organizing committee at

How to reach Danish Architecture Centre

The meeting will take place at Danish Architecture Centre (DAC), Strandgade 27B, DK-1401 Copenhagen K. On the DAC website (link below) you will find a description of how to reach the venue:

Organizing Committee

Copenhagen Meeting Committee:
Annemette Hasselager, Chair,
Birgitte Bonnerup, Associate Chair
Martin Eilschou
Mia Lange
Zanne Lorenzen

Supported by the LARA-committee:
Manuel Seijo Diaz
Marieke van Dam
Richard Morgan-Jones

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the Copenhagen Meeting Committee at We are looking forward to welcoming you in Copenhagen in March!
The Copenhagen Meeting Committee