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                                     THE SOCIAL  ENGAGEMENT OF
                                SOCIAL SCIENCE

A Tavistock  Anthology


The Foundation  and Development of the Tavistock Institute to 1989

by Eric Trist  and Hugh Murray




The Founding Tradition

Division Into Two Groups

Type C Organizations

Post-War Transformation

The Matrix

Three Research Perspectives

Achieving a Working Identity

The International Network


The Founding Tradition

Pre-War  Antecedents

After the fall of France in I94I, the Royal Air Force,  by winning the Battle of Britain, prevented German invasion of the British  Isles. The evacuation from the Dunkirk beaches prevented the capture of  the core of the regular army, including many of the generals who were  later to distinguish themselves. There was, therefore, a chance to fight  again but there was no land army of any size to do so. It was thus  imperative that Britain build a large land army in a hurry. Attempts to  meet this need created immense problems in the utilization of human  resources (problems far more severe for the army than for the other  services), but no measures tried in the first few months seemed to be  effective.

In I94I a group of psychiatrists at the Tavistock Clinic  saw that the right questions were asked in Parliament in order to secure  the means to try new measures. As a result they were asked to join the  Directorate of Army Psychiatry, and did so as a group.

To  understand how such a small group was able to be so influential, we must  go back to the period immediately after World War I when there was a  growing recognition that neurotic disabilities were not merely transitory  phenomena related to the stress of war, but were endemic and pervasive in a modern society. In order to respond to the 'felt social need' thus arising, the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology (better known as  the Tavistock Clinic), the parent body of the post-World War II Institute,  was founded in I920 as a voluntary outpatient clinic to explore the  implications for treatment and research.

The founding group  comprised many of the key doctors who had been concerned with neurosis in  World War I. They included general physicians and neurologists, as well as  psychiatrists, and one or two multiply-trained individuals who combined  psychology and anthropology with medicine. The group, therefore, showed  from the beginning the preparedness to be linked to the social sciences  and to general medicine, as well as to psychiatry, which has characterized  it ever since.

Interest focussed on the then new 'dynamic  psychologies' as representing the direction which offered most hope.  Because of the uncertain and confused state of knowledge in these fields,  tolerance of different viewpoints was part of the undertaking and the  Tavistock Clinic functioned as a mediating institution, a clearing-house  where the views of several contending parties could be aired. On the one  hand were the adherents of Freud, Jung and Adler, who were preoccupied  with establishing their own professional societies and advancing their own  theories. On the other were a neurologically-oriented general psychiatry,  a somatically-oriented general medicine and a surrounding society puzzled,  bewildered, intrigued and frightened by the new knowledge of the  unconscious and its implications for important areas of life.

Since  'authoritarian' government of the medical kind in a pathfinding  organization such as the Tavistock Clinic proved dysfunctional, a  transition to a collegiate professional democracy took place in the early  I930s, when problems arising from the Depression shook many cherished  beliefs and raised new questions concerning the role of social factors in  psychological illness. This organizational revolution brought to the front  a younger generation of clinicians with a level of ability and a maverick quality that would otherwise have been  lost.*
*The staff now elected as their Director  Jack Rawlings Rees, grouped around whom were Henry Dicks, Ronald  Hargreaves, Tommy Wilson and Wilfred Bion, all of whom subsequently made  world-wide reputations. They would have left the Tavistock had it not been  for the opportunities opened up by the organizational  revolution.

This younger group now began to  take on a conceptual direction consonant with the emergent 'object  relations approach' in psychoanalysis. The object relations approach  emphasized relationships rather than instinctual drives and psychic  energy.

As Dicks's (I970) history (Fifty Years of the Tavistock  Clinic) shows, there were great variations in the quality of the services  offered by the pre-war Clinic. Among the 80 physicians who contributed six  hours a week, many had little or no psychiatric training. Nevertheless, by  the beginning of World War II the Tavistock had attained international  standing. It had developed links with organizations in the main  Commonwealth countries and the United States, and had undertaken  systematic research and teaching. It had obtained peripheral academic  standing in London University with six recognized teachers. The outbreak  of war, however, prevented this arrangement from being  implemented.

                                           WAR-TIME BREAKTHROUGHS

The group who  entered the Directorate of Army Psychiatry took a novel approach to the  human resource problems facing the army. Rather than remain in base  hospitals they went out into the field to find out from commanding  officers what they saw as their most pressing problems. They would listen  to their troubled military clients as an analyst would to a patient,  believing that the 'real' problems would surface as trust became  established, and that constructive ideas about dealing with them would  emerge. The concept thence arose of 'command' psychiatry, in which a  psychiatrist with a roving commission was attached to each of the five  Army Commanders in Home Forces.

A relationship of critical  importance was formed between the Clinic's Ronald Hargreaves, as command  psychiatrist, and Sir Ronald Adam, the Army Commander in Northern Command.  When Adam became Adjutant General, the second highest post in the army, he  was able to implement policies that Hargreaves and he had adumbrated. New  military institutions had to be created to carry them out. The  institution-building process entailed:

Earning the right to  be consulted on emergent problems for which there was no solution in  traditional military rocedures, e.g., the problem of officer  selection.

  • Making preliminary  studies to identify a path of solution - the investigation of morale in  Officer Cadet Training Units.
  • Designing a pilot  model in collaboration with military personnel which embodied the  required remedial measures - the Experimental War Office Selection  Board.
  • Handing over the  developed model to military control with the psychiatric and  psychological staff falling back into advisory roles or where possible  removing themselves entirely - the War Office Selection Boards (WOSBs)  and Civil Resettlement Units (CRUs) for repatriated prisoners of  war.
  • Disseminating the  developed model, securing broad acceptance for it and training large  numbers of soldiers to occupy the required roles, e.g.,  CRUs.

To meet these  large-scale tasks the range of disciplines was extended from psychiatry  and clinical psychology to social psychology, sociology and anthropology.  The members of these various disciplines were held together by  participation in common operational tasks in an action frame of reference.  To varying extents they began to learn each others' skills. The group  became, to use a term that arose after the war in a project concerned with  alternative forms of organization in the mining industry, a 'composite'  work group. (Vol. I, 'The Assumption of Ordinariness as a Denial  Mechanism')

Undertaking practical tasks that sought to resolve operational crises generated insights that led toward new theory. This  process was familiar to those members of the group who were practicing  psychiatrists, but it was new to those coming from other disciplines. This led to a generalized concept of professionalism.
The innovations  introduced during the war years consisted of a series of  “inventions:"

  • Command psychiatry as  a reconnaissance activity leading to the identification of critical  problems.
  • Social psychiatry as a  policy science permitting preventive intervention in large scale  problems.
  • The co-creation with  the military of new institutions to implement these policies.
  • The therapeutic  community as a new mode of treatment.
  • Cultural psychiatry  for the analysis of the enemy mentality.

By the end of  the war a considerable number of psychiatrists and social scientists had  become involved in this comprehensive set of innovative applications of  concepts of social psychiatry. They saw in these approaches a significance  which did not seem to be limited by the condition of war, and were  determined to explore their relevance for the civilian society. Obviously,  individual programs could not be transferred without considerable  modification; entirely new lines of development would have to be worked  out. Nevertheless, a new action-oriented philosophy of relating psychiatry  and the social sciences to society had become a reality in practice. This  event signified the social engagement of social  science.

                                           Post-War Transformation

                                              OPERATION  PHOENIX

New questions now arose. Who would be the next pioneers?  Who would accept the risks, which were great? Could a setting be found  that could nurture the new endeavors? An answer to these questions came  about in the following way.

Toward the end of the war the existence  of a democratic tradition in the Tavistock Clinic made possible the  election by the whole staff (through a postal ballot) of an Interim  Planning Committee (IPC) to consider the future of the organization. The  election gave power to those who had led the work in the Army.* The IPC  began meeting in
*The six elected members were  J.R. Rees, who was later to found the World Federation of Mental Health;  Leonard Browne, who became a prominent Alderman in the London County  Council; Henry Dicks, who founded the field of cultural psychiatry; Ronald  Hargreaves, who became Deputy Director of the World Health Organization;  Mary Luff, who retired after the war; and Tommy Wilson, who became  Chairman of the Tavistock Institute. The IPC met twice a week for two or  three hours in the evenings. There were rarely any absentees. The group  co-opted two people not previously at the Clinic - Jock Sutherland, a  psychiatrist, who was to become Director of the post-war Clinic, and Eric  Trist, a social psychologist, who was later to succeed Wilson as the  Institutes Chairman. Both had played prominent parts in the war-time  developments.

the autumn of I945 to work  out a redefinition of the Clinic's mission in light of the experiences  gained during the war. The IPC was chaired by Wilfred Bion, who used his  new findings about groups to clarify issues and reduce conflicts within  the planning group itself. Council approved its report by the end of that  year.

The IPC made a crucial decision in recognition of an  impending political event - the then new Labour Government's intimation  that it would in I948 create a National Health Service. The IPC  resolved:

  • To  build up the Clinic to enter the National Health Service fully equipped  with the kind of staff who could be entrusted with the task of  discovering the role of out-patient psychiatry, based on a dynamic  approach and oriented towards the social sciences, in the as yet unknown  setting of a national health service.
  • Separately to  incorporate the Institute of Human Relations for the study of wider  social problems not accepted as in the area of mental  health.

This readiness  enabled the IPC in I945 to attract the attention of Alan Gregg, Medical  Director of the Rockefeller Foundation, who was touring the various  institutions that had been involved in war medicine. He was interested in  finding out if there was a group committed to undertaking, under  conditions of peace, the kind of social psychiatry that had developed in  the army under conditions of war. So began a process that led the  Rockefeller Foundation in I946 to make a grant of untied funds without  which the IPC’s post-war plan could not have been carried out.

The  Rockefeller grant led to the birth of the Tavistock Institute of Human  Relations, constituted at first as a division of the Tavistock Clinic.  With these funds it became possible to obtain for the then joint  organization a nucleus of full-time senior staff who would otherwise have  been scattered in universities and hospitals throughout the country and  abroad.

A Professional Committee (PC), with Rees in the chair, and  a small Technical Executive representing the new permanent staff, chaired  by Bion, came into existence in February I946. These arrangements lasted  until the separate incorporation of the Institute in September I947. The  situation required the transformation of a large part-time staff,  appropriate for the pre-war Clinic as a voluntary out-patient hospital,  into a small nucleus of full-timers, supported by others giving  substantial proportions of their time, and committed to the redefined  mission of the post-war organization. Decisions were taken as to who  should stay, who should leave and who should be added. Criteria included  willingness to participate in the redefined social mission and to undergo  psychoanalysis if they had not already done so. This critical episode  became known as Operation Phoenix.*
*In  addition to Sutherland and Trist, a number of other outsiders who had  played prominent roles in the war-time effort, were brought in at this  point. John Bowlby, a child psychiatrist and analyst, was made head of  what he came to call the Department for Children and Parents. (The other  senior psychiatrists appointed to the Clinic were all from the wider  Tavistock group.) Elliott Jaques, a young Canadian psychiatrist and  psychologist, was invited to join the Institute and played a prominent  role during the five years he  stayed.

As regards the requirement for  psychoanalysis, it was felt that object relations theory had proved its  relevance during the war in the social as well as the clinical field. It  represented the most advanced body of psychological knowledge then  available which could provide a common foundation for those who would in  various ways be continuing, in the peace, the work begun under war  conditions.
Training would be in the hands of the British  Psycho-Analytical Society, and social applications in the hands of the  Institute. This understanding equilibrated relations between the two  bodies. The Society agreed to provide training analysts for acceptable  candidates, whether they were going to become fulltime analysts, mix  psychoanalytic practice with broader endeavors in the health field or use  psychoanalytic understanding outside the health area in organizational and  social projects. The Society, therefore, recognized the relevance for  psychoanalysis of work in the social field, while the Institute affirmed  the importance of psychoanalysis for psycho-soclal studies. In this way  some I5 individuals, some in the Clinic and some in the Institute, most of  them in mid-life, undertook personal psychoanalysis as part of the  enterprise of building the new Tavistock. It was a major 'experiment,' the  outcome of which could not be known for a number of years.

The PC  now faced painful tasks. When the decisions stemming from Operation  Phoenix began to be implemented, a great deal of guilt developed over the  termination of most of the pre-war staff who in one way or another did not  meet the criteria for inclusion in the post-war body. An abdication crisis  ensued. The PC agreed to stay in power only after a searching  self-examination that enabled them to separate task-oriented factors from  the tangle of personal feelings. Tension and confusion developed  throughout the entire organization. Bion resigned as Chairman of the  Technical Executive and restricted himself to the role of social therapist  to an overall staff group that held weekly meetings to work through these  matters. Without them the post-war organization could scarcely have  survived its conflicts. Our first experiment with group methods was on  ourselves.

                                         THE JOINT ORGANIZATION

In preparing to enter the  National Health Service (NHS) the Clinic had to develop therapeutic  methods that would allow the maintenance of a patient load sufficiently  large to satisfy the new authorities that out-patient psychotherapy could  be cost effective. War-time experience suggested that the best prospect  would lie in group treatment. Accordingly, the PC asked Bion, considering  his special achievements in this field, to pioneer this endeavor. His  response was to put up a notice which became celebrated - "You can have  group treatment now or wait a year for individual treatment." The groups  he started, however, were not only patient groups but groups with  industrial managers and with people from the educational world. He was  developing a general method reflected in a series of papers in Human  Relations (Bion, I948-5I), which put forward entirely new theory. By the  time the Clinic entered the NHS most of the psychiatrists were taking  groups, though none used precisely Bion’s methods.

Meanwhile, in  the Department for Children and Parents, Bowlby laid the foundations of  family therapy (Vol. I, “The Reduction of Group Tensions in the Family”).  Also at this time he began his world famous studies of mother/child  separation.

Another major and still continuing enterprise that  began during this early period emerged from a crisis in the Family Welfare  Association (FWA), which co-ordinated family case work in the London area.  The coming of the welfare state rendered unnecessary its task of  dispensing material aid to the poor. Its offices were now besieged by  clients with social and emotional problems with which its staff were  unable to deal. Through Wilson (I949) the Institute was consulted. An  attempt to train FWA staff proved unsuccessful. The Institute therefore  set up within its own boundary what was called the Family Discussion  Bureau (FDB), which later became the Institute for Marital Studies (IMS).  This created the first non-medical channel in Britain for professional  work with families. In time it was supported by the government through the  Home Office.

Michael Balint, one of the senior analysts at the  Clinic, introduced a group method of training family welfare workers in  which stress was laid on making them aware of their counter-transferences:  their projections of their own problems onto their clients. Balint later  developed these methods for training large numbers of health  professionals, including general physicians (Balint, I954). This allowed  the Clinic to have a multiplier effect which, along with group treatment  and the inauguration of family therapy, showed that what had been learnt  in the Army about using scarce resources to meet the needs of large scale  systems could be applied in the civilian society in entirely new  ways.

Hostility to the Institute's work, however, developed in the  academic world. The Medical Research Council dismissed the first draft of  the WOSB write-up as being of only historical, not scientific, interest.  No further funds were granted.
Several strategic moves were  nevertheless made to establish the Tavistock's academic claims. There was  very little chance at that time of getting much of its work accepted by  existing journals. A new journal was needed that would manifest the  connection between field theory and object-relations psychoanalysis. With  Lewin’s group in the U.S., the Research Center for Group Dynamics, now at  the University of Michigan, the Institute created a new international  journal, Human Relations, whose purpose was to further the integration of  psychology and the social sciences and relate theory to  practice.

In I947 a publishing company - Tavistock Publications -  was founded, which in the longer run succeeded in finding a home in a  major publishing house (the Sweet and Maxwell Group) while retaining its  own imprint. A joint library was also established with the Clinic that  provided the best collection of books and journals then available in  London in the psycho- and socio-dynamic fields. This was needed for  teaching as well as research purposes. John Rickman, a senior analyst  closely associated with the Tavistock, said that there should be no  therapy without research and no research without therapy and that the  Institute should offer training in all the main areas of its  work.

By the time the Institute was separately incorporated there  was a staff of eight with Wilson as chairman. Six of the eight had taken  part in one or other of the war-time projects. The disciplines included  psychology, anthropology, economics, education and  mathematics.

                                         Achieving a Working  Identity

                                     INDUSTRIAL ACTION RESEARCH

By I948 the  British economy was in serious trouble. The pound had been devalued,  productivity was low and there was a scarcity of capital for investment in  new technology. The government formed an Industrial Productivity Committee  which had a Human Factors Panel. This made grants for research aiming to  secure improved productivity through better use of human  resources.

The grants were for three years and were administered by  the Medical Research Council. The Institute proposed three projects, all  of which were accepted. The first focussed on internal relations within a  single firm (from the board to the shop floor) with the aim of identifying  means of improving cooperation between management and labor and also  between levels of management; the second focussed on organizational  innovations that could raise productivity; the third pioneered a new form  of post-graduate education for field workers in applied social  research.

A site for the first project was obtained in the London  factories of a light engineering concern (the Glacier Metal Company) whose  managing director had a special interest in the social sciences. The  project, headed by Elliott Jaques, led to far-reaching changes in the  organization and culture of the firm. A novel role was elaborated that  enabled process consultation to take place across areas of conflict. Some  radically new concepts were formulated such as the use of social structure  as a defense against anxiety (Vol. I, 'On the Dynamics of Social  Structure'). Jaques's (1951) book, The Changing Culture of a Factory, was  the first major publication of the Institute after it became independent.  While it was an immense success in the literature, being reprinted many  times, no requests were received to continue this kind of work. As Jaques  said at the time, the answer from the field was silence.

A  component of the second project, under Erie Trist, led to the discovery of  self-regulating work groups in a coal mine - the first intimation that a  new paradigm of work might be emerging along the lines indicated by the  Institute's work with groups. It opened up the study of 'Socio-Technical  Systems' which has become world-wide.

The training program tor the  six industrial fellows was for two years and experience based. All  participated in a common project (the Glacier Project) while each took  part in another Institute project. To gain direct experience of  unconscious factors in group life each was placed in a therapy group. To  gain experience of managing their own group life they met regularly with a  staff member in attendance. Each had a personal tutor. After the first  year they returned to their industries to see what new perceptions they  had gained and reported on them to a meeting of Institute staff. They also  attended regular staff seminars at which all projects were discussed. This  was the first opportunity which the Institute had to apply its methods in  training. It was, however, too experience based to receive favor at that  time.

                                  CONSULTANCY DEVELOPMENTS

With the ending of the  government's Human Factors Panel, no further research funds were available  from British sources. Though Rockefeller help continued, the Institute had  to develop its work in the consultancy field and prove that it could pay  its way by directly meeting client needs while at the same time furthering  social science objectives.

Further work in the Socio-Technical  field was arrested in the coal industry, but unexpected circumstances  yielded an opportunity in India to work collaboratively with the Calico  Mills, a subsidiary of Sarabhai Industries, in Ahmedabad. In view of his  experience of the tropics, the MC selected A. K. Rice to go to India as  the project officer. He proposed that a group of workers should take  charge of a group of looms. The idea was taken up spontaneously by the  workers in the automatic loom shed who secured management permission to  try out a scheme of their own creation. This led to developments that  continued for 25 years showing that the socio-technical concept was  applicable in the culture of a very different kind of  society.

Unilever had established a working relationship with the  Institute immediately after the war. It was now expanding. It needed to  recruit and train a large number of high caliber managers. The Chairman,  Lord Heyworth, had been interested in the WOSBs and approached the  Institute for assistance. The result was the joint development of the  Unilever Companies' Management Development Scheme based on a modification  of WOSB methods. This led to a still continuing collaborative  relationship, with many ramifications, of which Harold Bridger has been  the architect.

With the profusion of new products in the I950s,  advertising agencies and the marketing departments of firms were under  pressure to develop new methods for increasing sales. Motivation research  had made its appearance but was narrowly conceived. One or two trial  projects gave rise to a new concept which brought together Lewinian and  psychoanalytic thinking - the pleasure foods region. This consisted of  products of little or no nutritional value that were consumed, often in  excess, because of their power to afford oral satisfactions which reduced  anxiety and relieved stress.

Early studies by Menzies and Trist  (I989) concerned ice cream and confectionery. Later studies by Emery  (Emery et al., I968) and Ackoff and Emery (I972) concerned smoking and  drinking. The smoking study identified the affect of distress, as  formulated by Silvan Tomkins (I962), as a continuing negative state (as  distinct from acute anxiety and depression) which required repeated relief  such as smoking affords. The drinking study produced a new social theory  of drinking behavior that distinguished between social, 'reparative' and  indulgent drinking, only the last leading to alcoholism.

As regards  the consultancy style that developed, the method was adopted of having two  Institute staff attend the early meetings. This was both to obtain  binocular vision and to show that the relationship was with an  organization and not simply with an individual. With only one person, the  dangers of transference and counter-transference would have been greater.  A project officer was appointed. After the opening stage the second staff  member remained largely outside the project so that a more objective  appreciation could be made. Other staff were added as required by project  assignments.

The funding crisis had proved a blessing in disguise.  The Institute had now proved to itself that it could earn a substantial  part of its living from private industry. Though it still needed support  from foundations and government funding agencies, it was no longer  completely dependent on them. It needed these funds to add a research  dimension to projects that clients could not be expected to pay for and to  cover the costs of writing up the results.

                                  TOWARD AN OPTIMUM  BALANCE

In I954 the Institute succeeded once more in obtaining  research funds. A four-year grant enabled the socio-technical studies in  the coal industry to be resumed through the government's Department of  Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) which administered counterpart  US/UK funds that were part of the Marshall Plan. The Nuffield Foundation  supported the research component of the family studies program, while the  Home Office supported the operational part.

The most difficult  funds to obtain were untied funds such as had been provided by the  Rockefeller Foundation. As no further grants of this kind were available,  a development charge was added to all consultancy projects so that a  special reserve could be built up to tide staff over between projects and  to enable them to be taken out of the field to write up work that had  already been done. It was felt that I5 percent of the Institute's income  should be from untied funds. A much larger proportion - 35 percent -  should be sought from foundations or government for specific long-range  projects of a primarily research character, though the research would  largely be action research. Experience in the consultancy field had now  shown that long-range projects with serious social science outcome could  be obtained of a kind too unconventional to be supported by foundations or  governments. These could account for another 30 percent of income.  Experience had also shown the value of short-range projects which could  lead into new areas. The remaining 20 percent of income could best be  generated by projects of this kind.

Another dimension concerned the  sectors of society in which the projects would take place. The aim was to  have work going on in more than one sector, though the larger proportion  would be in industry. By I96I there were nine industrial projects and six  in other sectors.

Separately categorized were projects related to  the Clinic which was regarded solely as a treatment institution by the  NHS. As originally intended, however, it was developing large research and  training programs. These were financed by foundation grants, especially  from the U.S., and were administered by the Institute through what was  called the Research and Training Committee (RTC). Some of the Institute's  own activities came into this area. The RTC succeeded in resolving conflicts as to which projects should be put forward for  funding.

Among such Institute activities was a program to develop  new projective tests and to train people in their use. This led during the  I970s to the creation of the British Society for Projective Psychology  through which a large number of clinical psychologists have been trained.  New Tavistock tests which were widely adopted included Phillipson's Object  Relations Technique. His book with R.D. Laing (Laing et al., I966),  Interpersonal Perception, opened up fresh ground. A leading part in these  developments was played by Theodora Alcock (I963), recognized world-wide  as a Rorschach expert, who was kept on by the Institute when she reached  the retiring age in the NHS. This path of development represents a pioneer  effort that would not otherwise have taken place.

Of crucial  importance was the duration of projects. Action research projects  concerned with change tend to be long-range as they unfold in  unpredictable ways. Projects lasting more than three years were regarded  as being in the long-range category, those between I8 months and three  years were considered medium-range, and those lasting six to I8 months  short-range. A balance was needed between these types of duration. In  addition, it was found advantageous to keep going a few very brief  exploratory assignments as these sometimes opened up new areas and led to  innovative developments which could not be foreseen.

In the  industrial sector, Socio-Technical studies continued in the coal industry  and then in industries with advanced technologies, both funded through  DSIR. There was also a program of research on labor turnover, absence and  sickness (Hill and Trist, I955: Vol. I, 'Temporary Withdrawal from Work').  Under conditions of full employment there was widespread concern about  these phenomena. New theory and a new practical approach  emerged.

Toward the end of the I950s problems of quite a new kind  began to be brought to the Institute. They arose from changes taking place  in the wider contextual environment and led to what has been called the  socio-ecological perspective. These problems and the theories and methods  to deal with them are encompassed in Volume III. The opportunities to  build up this perspective came initially from exploratory projects with  Bristol Siddeley Engines, the National Farmers’ Union and a Unilever  subsidiary in the food industry, all of which were facing major changes in  their contextual environments. (These changes were not  understood.)

As regards other social sectors, the work in family  studies produced a major book by Elizabeth Bott (I957) entitled Family and  Social Networks (Vol. I, II Conjugal Roles and Social Networks”). This put  the concept of network, as distinct from that of group, firmly on the  social science map and generated a whole new literature. The Prison  Commissioners asked the Tavistock to test the value of a scheme for  greatly increasing time spent in "association," which had been  successfully tried out in the Norwich local prison. A systematic action  research study was carried out of its adaptation in Bristol. The prison  officers' union, the inmates, and the staff immediately reporting to the  Governor were all involved. This study, which broke new theoretical  ground, was carried out by Emery (Vol. I, 'Freedom and Justice Within  Walls'). Also during this time Dicks completed studies of the Russian  national character at the Harvard Center for Russian Studies (Vol. I,  'Notes on the Russian National Character'). They were a sequel to his work  on the German national character during World War II to which he returned  in Licensed Mass Murder (Dicks, I972). These studies established a firm  empirical base on which cultural psychology using psychoanalytic findings  could develop.

Another development during this period was the  creation, in collaboration with the University of Leicester, of a U.K.  equivalent to the form of sensitivity training pioneered by the National  Training Laboratories for Group Development in the United States. This is  still continuing. An overall review of it is given by Miller in Vol. I,  'Experiential Learning in Groups (I/II)' Two other models were developed  (Bridger, Vol. I, 'Courses and Working Conferences'; Higgin and  Hjelholt, Vol. I, The Psycho-Dynamics of an InterGroup Experience), the  idea being to experiment with alternative forms. These are also still  evolving.

A basic pattern could now be discerned in the projects of  the Institute:

  • They were all  responses to macro- or meta-problems emerging in the society with which  the Institute, in Sommerhoff's (I950) terms, became directively  correlated.
  • Access to  organizations struggling with meta-problems was initially obtained  through networks of individuals who had come to know about the  Institute's work during World War II. As time went on the initiating  individuals became people with whom the Institute had made contact in  the post-war period.
  • There was not yet a  wide appreciation of these emergent meta-problems so that the  connections through which the Institute could become directively  correlated with them were scarce and fragile. To discover the role of  networks in this situation was new learning.
  • The projects were  carried out by interdisciplinary teams with the project officer having a  second staff member as his consultant. Later on these teams became joint  with internal groups in the client organization. Project reviews took  place not so much in Institute seminars as in joint meetings with these  internal groups.
  • Though seminal  projects might begin from short-term relations, those with the most  significance as regards the advance of basic social scientific knowledge  depended on very long relationships being maintained with client  organizations or other sponsoring agencies. Change processes take time.  They unfold in interactions between the system and its environment in  complex ways which are not predictable. One is able to understand the  course of a social process only so far as it has manifested itself and  then only so far as one is able to stay with it.
  • Clients actively  collaborated with the Institute. The projects were joint enterprises of  action research and social learning. No results were published without  the agreement of all parties.
  • Great stress was laid  on 'working through' difficulties and conflicts by analogy with the  psychoanalytic method. Not that interpretations of a psychoanalytic kind  were directly made. Jaques called the process 'social analysis.' No  standardized procedures, however, were established. Suitable  interpretative languages had to evolve in different projects and some of  the methods introduced were manufactured more by the clients than by the  Institute.
  • The aim was to build  social science capabilities into organizations that they could then  develop by and for themselves.
  • Some of the  innovations were ahead of their time, often by a number of years. There  was little recognition of their significance and no short-term diffusion  of the practices involved.
  • New theory was as apt  to be generated by research paid for by client organizations as by work  paid for by research-funding agencies. One of the functions of the  latter was to fund work in which organizations would be willing to  collaborate operationally, but for the scientific analysis of which they  were not yet willing to pay. There were, of course, other projects which  could only be initiated if research funds were available.
  • The aim was eventually  to secure publication at a fully scientific level, but this had  sometimes to be delayed for several years and sometimes never emerged at  all. Those concerned were often understandably unwilling for work to be  made public that described internal processes of a sensitive kind or led  to changes the outcome of which could not be assessed for a long  time.

This pattern  established the Institute's working identity. It expresses what  is
meant by the social engagement of social science. It treated all  projects as opportunities for organizational and personal learning, both  for the client and for itself. Though this basic pattern has since  undergone much elaboration and improvement, its fundamental character has  remained the same.