On not being an academic & representing TIHR at the Academy of Management

On not being an academic & representing TIHR at the Academy of Management

‘Tavi-stock-taking’ with Dr Sadie King

‘Tavi-stock-taking’ with Dr Sadie King

My career and intellectual path have been informed by the inability to tolerate being unhappy at work. I’m not happy unless I’m interested and fully present otherwise you find me looking out of the window, 14 again, back in a soulless classroom that only led to truancy and handful of mediocre CSEs.

My path to Systems Psychodynamic Consulting came from adventures in wildlife management, anthropology, research and evaluation, mental health promotion, local government policy and strategy and recently Gestalt approaches to OD. With the exception of anthropology (the discipline of my doctorate), in all of these disciplines/departments/fields, I was always a practitioner working in complex social systems on a problem that required unpicking, translating, and supporting those with the authority to find a path out of the forest.

Presenting with other colleagues a symposium at the annual conference of the Academy of Management this August in Chicago as a divisional highlight of the Management Consulting Division: “Opening the Tavistock Institute’s Archives: Dialogue between Past and Present”, offered an opportunity to consolidate an identity around being a scholarly practitioner and a Tavistockian.

Our paper “To “Stock Take” and to “Take Stock”: Interdisciplinary Threads and Tensions in Developing a Tavistock Workplace Wellbeing Consultancy Piece” explored the need for interdisciplinary working to identify the blockages and enablers and find solutions for organisations and social systems, not ideal but good enough to function, survive and thrive in difficult circumstances.

However, the orientations of stock-taking (measuring, assessing, testing, describing) and taking stock (making sense of, reflecting, suggesting, exploring, co-producing) are stronger in some disciplines than others and this can cause tension when working on emotionally difficult subjects. The tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration is a founding principle of the Tavistock Institute and it was an honour to see the work of the Institute so alive and unique in the field of management. I felt justified in not being comfortable in one discipline or another and I gave my 14-year-old self a little pat on the back and told her she was right to run away from the boring place. The forests of human complexity are full of pathways to fairer, happier social systems, but in every new assignment you need to embrace the uncomfortable place of not knowing and no one discipline can offer that.

This year during module 2 of the Tavistock Institute’s Practitioner Certificate in Consulting and Change (P3C) we explored the orientations of stock taking and taking stock; in 2019 we will look deeper at the possibilities for “transdisciplinary research-based consultancy” and invite participants to work explicitly with not knowing.

Dr Sadie King

Dr Sadie King is a Principal Researcher and consultant at The Tavistock Institute, she is also a module leader on the Practitioner Certificate in Consulting and Change (P3C) programme.

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