This book examines the Tavistock tradition of using group relations conferences as temporary training organizations for groups and institutions, and how those can inform and enrich the theory and practice of experiential learning more generally.
First, this book analyses the structures, rituals, and beliefs of group relations conferences, drawing on the author’s learned experience in the field, followed by meditations extending to broader areas, such as the social nature of corruption, martial arts, Western culture’s longing for creativity, and the use of drawing in social science research. It addresses the tension between psychoanalysis and systemic theory in group relations thinking, refining and re-defining key concepts of the practice, challenging notions of dependence and dependency, performative poetics, learning, the politics of power, nostalgia, and the unspoken reasons for the wish to join conference staff teams. It offers a critique of the polarity concerning terms such as spontaneity, the sense of mystery, openness to the unexpected, and trust in unconscious processes, as opposed to the desire for certainty and the confusion, anxiety, and aggression evoked when groups find themselves without familiar signposts. Drawing on his thinking developed over the course of a professional life as organizational consultant, artist, designer, teacher, researcher, and poet, the author invites the reader to challenge boundaries towards a less inflexible and defended engagement with the Other. The metaphor of bricolage, an activity that inspires creativity and originality, suggests possible ways of putting known things together to approach new meaning as provisional and shifting. The many strands thus gathered reveal new dimensions of group life that crucially affect our everyday living and surviving, both as individuals and as members of society.
This work will allow psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, group therapists, organizational consultants and trainers to put the lessons learned from group relations conferences into everyday practice.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Karen Izod Introduction: why group relations conferences? 1. Group relations as ritual (from seduction to translation) 2. Group, relations, unrepresented 3. Group relations conferences: what do staff want? 4. Group relations, innovation, and the production of nostalgia 5. Group relations, paradox, and performative poetics 6. Group relations, power, and the discourse of learning 7. Corruption: oedipal configuration as social mechanism 8. Martial arts: enactment of aggression or integrative space? 9. The myth of creativity at work 10. Drawing below the surface: eliciting tacit knowledge in social science research
Carlos Sapochnik, MA(RCA) MA PhD FCSD FISTD FHEA, is a London-based graphic designer, artist, teacher, researcher, and organisational consultant trained at the Royal College of Art and the Tavistock Clinic, active in group relations in the UK and abroad, having directed conferences at the British Association of Psychotherapists, the British Psychotherapy Foundation, and the Tavistock Centre. Between 2004 and 2018 he was a member of staff in the postgraduate course Consulting and Leading in Organisations: Psychodynamic and Systemic Approaches, at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. He has published papers on learning and teaching in Higher Education as well as three collections of poetry—So far so good (2018), Drawing strength (2019), and Wear & Tear (desgaste y lágrima) (2021)—with the Alltogethernow Press. He completed his doctoral project in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths College, University of London, entitled Drawing from the site of absence: Observing, forgetting, and representing groups.
"Carlos Sapochnik’s book is a real gift and was very much needed. I have rarely found such a thorough and innovative text on Group Relations Conferences, as ‘a learning device’ about ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ groups and organisations, and on group life in general. The psychoanalytical and the systems theory are brilliantly integrated with the practitioner’s real and emotional experience. This work provides an excellent example of the hermeneutic tradition of questioning and interpreting meanings in search of truth, not as a ‘principle’, but as an ‘inter-subjective collaborative enterprise. " - Louisa Diana Brunner, Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach, Independent Researcher, Group Relations Conferences Staff and Director
"This is an exhilarating and complex book that vividly reminds me of the pleasure and stimulation of working with Carlos Sapochnik in many conferences. It combines scholarship with the invitation to think and play, proposing that creativity is not a quality of the gifted but intrinsic to human nature. The book contains intriguing ideas for the reader to engage in the spirit of open minded enquiry. Above all, we are invited to explore the immense contribution that the application of psychoanalytic thinking can make to contemporary discourses." - Julian Lousada, Psychoanalyst and Organizational Consultant
"Carlos Sapochnik has made an important and perceptive addition to the literature on group relations. This book is a distinctive interrogation of the author’s lived experience of group relations as an approach to personal and systemic learning. The author questions and critiques this method as a way of enhancing our understanding and enjoyment of it. He provides the reader with insightful conclusions about group relations as a learning process; and offers important ‘meditations’ on power, corruption, aggression and creativity within systems of learning and organizing." - Russ Vince, Professor of Leadership and Change, School of Management, University of Bath, UK