History at Work: Building Organisational Memory, Empathy & Compassion

History at Work: Building Organisational Memory, Empathy & Compassion

In recent years there has been a turn towards interest in history, due to both heritage interest and scholarly enquiry. This has provoked an admirable amount of scholarly publishing, including in the pages of Human Relations. Drawing on this interest, this is a two-hour dialogic interdisciplinary session which first examines choice sections from Tavistock historiography, for example from H.V. Dicks’ 1970 history of the Institute and more recent Tavistock literature including that prepared for the 2017 festival.

The aim of the workshop was to understand how and why an organisation’s historical perception of itself has changed over time. In then expanding this approach to interdisciplinary, small group discussion and larger group feedback sessions, the second aim was to encourage participants to examine these issues in relation to their own organisations.

The workshop provided three learning opportunities: firstly, to encourage scholars of different disciplines and specialisms to engage with each other using the common ground of the history of the Tavistock Institute. Second, by using the real-world complexity of participants’ own organisations, we encouraged interdisciplinary discussion and thought. Third, to enable participants to transfer the notions of historical and organisational reflexivity explored in the workshop to their own organisation on a more permanent basis.


Audio recording of talk: Please use headphones and apologies for poor sound in places.[x_audio_embed][/x_audio_embed]


Michael Weatherburn: I teach the history of science, including social science, at Imperial College, London, where I completed my PhD on the history of management consultancy and systems engineering. From June 2017 I am also Honorary Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Hong Kong University. I’ve always found myself drawn to organisations which are consciously aware of their own origins, history and long-term development, as to me this implies that the organisation is also thinking well into the future. My workshop draws on my university teaching and learning experience, and also as an independent consultant delivering training on organisational history and empathy.
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