Saturday, April 9, 2011

Need for Groups and Groups need for Individuals

When I found the words "Need to belong to Groups" it was first in Max Kostick's Personality and Preference Inventory (Copyright now with Cubiks, UK) . I first put that down to the simple Need for Inclusion that came from the Auschwitz turned Professor of Psychology - Will Schutz (, author of the Human Element. Today, as I reflect on the proceedings of the OD India community / network, the words of Dr. Vijay Padaki ring clearly. As he processed and offered to the group his observation, it appeared that our conversations had to do with our individual need to belong to a group of similarly interested people. It was for the group to evolve to know what kind of involvement it needed from the individual. Else, the excess of individual entitlement in groups would end up in a laissez-faire situation. Group command over the individual on the other hand would end up in a totalitarian system. The polarity is a worthwhile one to consider.

It also struck me that I had not named my blog Living in Groups accidentally. This 'emergence' was a conscious choice of living through the realization of the socially intelligent brain that neurologists today popularize. Man's social being is likely to be pronounced even further. The refrain that large corporations reduce the essence of individuals to mere 'resources' represented in 'numbers' in .xls files, the 'person' and her essence to life in corporations is at once at peril and tenuously placed for the future. While the rationalization of the organisation being bigger than the individual is a form of escape from the responsibility for fellow humans, the individual representing the decision of the large organisation stands the risk of being assailed by history as having aborted his creative capacity to nourish the balance between the individual and the organisation.

The OD community of the year 2011 that assembled at WIPRO in Bangalore found it reflectively humbling (or so I would think) to recognize that OD was a product of its time. The Human relations movement sought to correct the imbalance between the efficiency ethic of large organisation and nurturing humanism of the small unit of society - the family or small organizations. It is also ironic that we fall back on historical traditions such as OD theory and Systems theory to comprehend the interdependence of institutions, and the sheer complexity of adapting social systems. The unit of effectiveness (as in paradigms of measurement) stands effectively challenged by the cause- effect ambiguity of complex living systems. Well, there's an instrumental appeal to the famous Kurt Lewin quote "There's nothing so practical as a good theory". We're in search of that organisational theory for our times. We're on the edge of discovery, and the adventure is a spirit kindled by the attitude of curiosity.

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