Sense-making in Chile
January 2019 saw the first visit of the Tavistock Institute to the International Week of the FEN, the Economics and Business School at the University of Chile and my first visit to that country. A number of tutors from outside Chile are each invited to teach a 15-hour programme to Master’s students – including those studying for MBA’s, and Master’s in Finance, Accounting and Personnel Management. At least half would have no experience of group dynamics or unconscious processes. The brief, which I worked on with our longstanding colleagues from GR practice, Eduardo Acuna and Matias Sanfuentes, was to introduce students to Tavistock theory and practices. I would have a room big enough for students to work together and in small groups, an able and assistant to lean on, and simultaneous interpretation.
Interpretation was, as far as I experienced, a success, when I interacted directly with the students. Located in the corner of the room in their soundproof glass booth, we had cheery exchanges when things went a little awry. The big challenge was to spend much of Saturday afternoon running a group relations ‘intergroup’ type event on my own, with small groups working in their native tongue, with limited verbal interpretation. I would have to work with my own senses and observations to work out what was going on. What were the emerging identities and dynamics between the groups? Was there conflict? Competition? Co-operation? I had to rely on my demeanour and clear instructions for containment, and trust more than ever to the process. Would they be enough? And there, back with our earpieces on, in the plenary session, all was explained and not unrelated to my own sense-making. The small but meaningful dramas that had played out, just as they always do, were presented back and I now finally had the opportunity to make my own interpretations, further interpreted by my allies in the corner booth and with the support of the English speakers in the room.
All together we reflected on and made sense of the session and of the two days we had spent together from our different identities, traditions and languages. And with all this in mind, I set off the next day ready for my own Chilean challenge – experiencing and making sense of the vast and beautiful expanses of mountains, sand, geysers and sky of the astonishing Atacama Desert…
A short video about the International Week can be seen here (in Spanish).
Principal Researcher / Consultant
The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations