A.K. Rice: A Forgotten Giant at The Tavistock Institute

A.K. Rice: A Forgotten Giant at The Tavistock Institute

Jean Neumann and Antonio Sama trace A.K. Rice’s legacy embedded and captured in articles, books and other source documents.

A.K. Rice with lion

This Lunchtime Talk acknowledges and demonstrates Albert Kenneth Rice as both a shaper of the organisation that became The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR, London, UK) and as an essential co-creator of the fields of study and practice that underpin TIHR’s influence.

Using information only recently available via the Wellcome Library TIHR archives, Jean Neumann and Antonio Sama trace Ken Rice’s legacy embedded and captured in articles, books and other source documents. His change-related practices, traditions and, above all, institutions are still operating effectively on principles and assumptions he developed during two decades of active scholarship.

Thus, in this Food for Thought Lunchtime Talk, Jean and Antonio reclaim A. K. Rice as a forgotten giant upon whose shoulders stand both an institute and school of thought. Based on his understanding of action research as prototyping and customising methodologies, A.K. Rice combined group dynamics, organisational design and consultancy practice into a unique blend of both theory of change and systems theory of organisations.

Jean and Antonio summarise Rice’s extraordinary work into four streams based on seminal action research projects: post-war reconstruction and innovations in industrial work organisations (Bion); productivity and social organisation (Glacier); enterprise and its environment (Ahmedabad); and Group Relations integrating systems psychodynamics and socio-technical systems (Leicester Conference). Throughout, they draw attention to an underlying paradigm that they label, Socio-Technical Systems Psychodynamics (STSP), that readily can be credited to A.K. Rice and his colleagues.

Recording of the talk

Jean Neumann is an established practitioner and academic in organisational development and change (BA, MA, PhD), whose work blends three inter-connected activities. She operates a private consultancy practice, teaches on courses for consultants and change agents, and conducts action research that integrates theory and practice for workable approaches to real-life change. Jean has a foot in each of the two camps essential to the field of applied social science. Her early formation as an organisational development consultant (1972-1985) was based on a progressive USA orientation mostly shaped by NTL Institute. After being recruited to The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) in London (1987), Jean learned to appreciate how regressive social and political aspects of human behaviour underpin consultancy and change practice. Jean still serves The Tavistock Institute as Senior Fellow in Scholarly Practice and as a devoted Professional Partner in advanced organizational consultancy. Jean’s thirty-plus publications are based on action research and emphasize integrating systems psychodynamics, organizational theory and change practice.

Antonio Sama is a Senior Lecturer and organisational consultant who operates in the UK and Italy. His research, academic and professional interests include the role of system psychodynamics in Higher Education, cross-boundary collaborations and whole system change processes in the third sector and community settings, complexity theories and action research applied to organisational and community systems and in organisational consultancy and history of (some) organisational ideas. These interests have led to local, national, and international collaborations in research, professional development, and teaching. Antonio is an AOC graduate and a Professional Partner of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. With Juliet, Scott has worked on the Archive Project and the 70th Anniversary Festival. Antonio is Member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Management History.

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