The Tavistock Institute

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The Tavistock Institute
purpose Understand organizations as social systems and change them in a humane manner.
Chair: David Hollywood (Council Chair)

Eliat Aram (CEO)

Establishment date: September 1947
Seat : London

The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations ( TIHR ) is a non-profit organization engaged in social science research and was founded in 1947 as an offshoot of the Tavistock Clinic .


During World War II , many of the full-time staff at the Tavistock Clinic served as psychiatric specialists in the army . The organization based in the War Propaganda Bureau (Wellington House) drafted propaganda concepts and disseminated them.

This interdisciplinary group founded the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in 1947 and turned to questions of organizational development and social change . Founding members included Elliott Jaques , Henry Dicks, Leonard Browne, Ronald Hargreaves, John Rawlings Rees , Mary Luff, Wilfred Bion and Tommy Wilson as directors. The Rockefeller Foundation made a financial contribution. Other well-known employees joined later: John D. Sutherland, John Bowlby , Eric Lansdown Trist and Fred Emery.

The Tavistock Institute now conducts research and consultations in the field of social sciences and applied psychology for the European Union , various departments of the UK government and private clients. The institute has its own publishing house and is the owner and editor of Human Relations , an international journal for social sciences.

Activity and research focus

The basic concepts that the socio-psychological led orientation of the Institute who were psychoanalytic object relations theory , the Lewinian field theory , the culture and personality approach (culture and personality school) and the theory of open systems by Fred Emery (Open Systems Theory (OST)). These were used for the control of results-based (action-oriented) projects are substantial in size and duration. The experiences from these projects led to further conceptual developments. In order to understand the processes and to be able to develop the new procedures, several or all of the basic concepts were used.

From 1949 studies on the "effects of mechanization and division of labor in mining " were carried out by the Tavistock Institute in the British coal industry . The research method used became known as the Tavistock approach .

With two industrial sociological studies on the organization of work in British coal mines and Indian textile factories, they contributed to the development of organizational sociology. The researchers used what is known as the socio - technical approach as a theoretical reference system , which states that there is an organizational choice when structuring work organizations , in which technical and social requirements can be combined in various ways. An optimization in the overall system would only succeed with suboptimization in the two subsystems (technical and social subsystem).

These findings were formative for the method of organizational development . It is used in the planning and implementation of many change processes in organizations.

Known employees

  • A key figure in Tavistock's history was Brigadier General John Rawlings-Rees, author of The Shaping of Psychiatry by War . Before the Second World War he was the medical director of the Tavistock Clinic and was instrumental in founding the Tavistock Institute.
  • The social psychologist Eric Lansdown Trist was vice director and director from 1946 to 1966 and the most important exponent of the Tavistock approach.
  • The psychoanalysts Wilfred Bion and SH Foulkes , both early champions of group analysis, developed new methods for selecting officers . They observed the group dynamics in a so-called leaderless group , where the assumption of responsibility takes place less through hierarchical commands than through practical action. Their methods resulted in a reduced number of rejected officer candidates .
  • Ronald D. Laing served in the British Army Psychiatric Unit .
  • Kurt Lewin , a member of the Berlin-Frankfurt School , and his group dynamics theories have had a major influence on the work of the institute to this day.
  • Eric J. Miller, director of the Group Relations Program at the institute since 1969 , developed the design for the Nazareth conferences , among other things


  • 1951 Kurt Lewin Award


  • FE Emery, EL Trist: Socio-technical Systems . In: FE Emery (Ed.): Systems Thinking . Penguin Books, Harmondsworth 1969.
  • Eric L. Trist et al .: Organizational Choice . Tavistock, London 1963.
  • Eric L. Trist et al .: The Social Engagement of Social Science: A Tavistock Anthology: The Socio-Ecological Perspective (Tavistock Anthology) . University of Pennsylvania , May 1997. ISBN 0-8122-8194-2
  • Eric J. Miller: The "Leicester" Model: Experiential study of Group and Organizational Processes. In: Occasional Papers. 10, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, London 1989.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Homepage of the Tavistock Institute, accessed on March 2, 2012
  2. Tavistock Anthology of Trist
  3. ^ A b Derek S. Pugh , David J. Hickson (ed): Eric Trist and the Work of the Tavistock Institute In: Writers on Organizations. , Fifths Edition, Penguin Books, London 1996, pp. 177-184.
  4. Jörg Sydow : The socio-technical approach of work and organizational design. Presentation, criticism and further development . Campus, Frankfurt Main 1985 and Gertraude Mikl-Horke : Industrial and Work Sociology. Oldenbourg, Munich / Vienna 1995, p. 143ff.
  5. [1] Kurt Lewin lectures: Field Theory
  6. [2] Eric Trieste: Guilty of Enthusiam. An autobiographical view. In: Management Laureates, Jai Press, 1993
  7. H. Shmuel Erlich, Mira Erlich-Ginor, Hermann Beland: Satisfied with tears - poisoned with milk. The Nazareth Group Conferences Germans and Israelis - The Past Is Present. (= Library of Psychoanalysis. ) With a foreword by Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu. Psychozial-Verlag, Giessen 2009, ISBN 978-3-89806-765-2 , pp. 39-52.
  8. ^ [3] American Psychological Association (APA): The Kurt Lewin Award 1951