I'm back. I apologize to all my loyal followers for having missed a week.
Two weeks ago I talked about getting participants involved in taking responsibility for process in addition to content. That is not just a good way to get them to take ownership of what the group is doing, it may be the best way to get them to leave their positions and focus on concerns, considerations, and constraints.
This month is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the National Training Laboratory which later became the international organization known as the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. In the summer of 1946, Kurt Lewin and a group of colleagues were doing academic research on a collaborative approach known as Action Research . In an action research effort, the actors in a situation are enlisted in jointly planning a study of their situation, jointly collecting data and processing the data collected, jointly interpreting the research results and jointly formulating recommendations to themselves and taking commitments to try out the recommendations and evaluate the consequences as tried.
Kurt Lewin and his colleagues were in New Britain, CT leading a group of people in an action research effort and studying the process. The subject of the effort was how to address racism -- much on everyone's minds that close to the liberation of the European concentration camps. The participants followed an action research process during the day, being observed by the researchers. Then in the evening, the researchers evaluated the day's process. In a spirit of transparency, the actors in the situation -- the participants -- were invited to observe the day's recap.
On Tuesday of the week of research, about 7:10 PM, one of the researchers was speaking on what he had observed when he was interrupted by one of the participants saying, "That's not at all what was going on." In that moment, Kurt Lewin recognized that participants can be valid observers of the process they were involved in. Thus was born the training group, or T group, a group who spend a week in collaboration where the content of their deliberations is the process they are using. The first T group was held under the auspices of NTL in Bethel, ME in the summer of 1947, but without Kurt Lewin, who had died in February.
The basic precept of this blog, that of valuing process over content, comes from one of the foundational texts of T groups, The Laboratory Method of Changing and Learning, Benne et. al. ed., Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books, 1975, pp. 47-48.


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