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Re-experiencing our own history now

Author: Greg Cook

Group relations (GR) conferences are designed for learning about how we are in groups. They help us understand how our own and other’s organisational, social and personal history shapes interaction and leadership. Conferences give lots of opportunity for this … in both formal conference activities and in the rich informal engagement between conference participants. That’s the real value in a week long residential.

I have recently been corresponding with a couple of former fellow GR conference participants, whose generosity and counsel I came to value during a conference a few years ago. Some experiences and memories stick - becoming new history. One particularly confronting experience was coming face-to-face with my own casual racism! I’m not proud of this, you understand, but it was a ‘gift’ made easy to accept because of the grace of my fellow conference member.

GR learning is experiential and interdependent. Participants learn from each other in conferences... about the effective and less effective, the ‘wounded’ and more celebratory parts of our selves, and how these reflect our own organisational histories. This is what shapes how we are in groups, how we interact and lead, how we hold our organisational and personal authority.

At a GR conference - in small and larger groups, in a range of group ‘events’ and in conversation, quiet reflection or reverie and in the unstructured engagement with other conference members we work to understand our own and other’s history anew,

A GR conference is a uniquely challenging opportunity to experience and learn about how we and others manage ourselves in our roles - professionally, organisationally and personally. I reckon it’s these new links - between present experiences and older personal patterns, that benefit our work roles. They also help shape new professional and personal meaning. GR conferences can turbo charge this.

Covid and the ‘4th industrial revolution’ has generated new ways of ‘holding authority’ at work. This includes working virtually, new approaches to self authorisation, fluid teams working in networked organisations and an increasingly networked society. This has been described as the ‘precarious interdependence’ of our modern world by Simon Western and Bernie McDonald in Socioanalysis, Volume 23, 2021.

This changing and volatile work world requires us all to learn new ways of working and engaging. Some of this will need re-examination of our familiar, accepted versions of how things are done - how we and others are in groups. Writing a new history, now.

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