Edgar H. Schein: «The Spirit of Inquiry»

Ed Schein together with his mother, Hildegard, and his father, Marcel Schein, ca. 1936. Photograph courtesy of Edgar H. Schein.

This work presents a collection of original essays composed by friends and ­colleagues of Edgar H. Schein. Each of the fifteen essays in its own way honors Ed’s invigorating and path breaking contributions – over six decades – to several scholarly and applied fields in the social sciences. To those familiar with the sweep of Ed Schein’s work, this collection serves as a testimony to its continuing relevance and usefulness. To those unfamiliar with all or parts of the work, this collection will serve as a crisp but helpful introduction.

But, what I will most treasure from this extraordinary experience was less the ideas than the complex weave of ideas and personas. (…). I will refrain from continuing to empty the lesson inventory from which they are drawn and end with a simple deep bow and “Thank You” to a genuine teacher.

Peter Senge, Senior Lecturer, Leadership and Sustainability, MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge MA; Academy for Systems Change, Norwich Vermont.

This book was put together as a labor of love. The original idea was born by Daniel C. Schmid and Gerhard Fatzer at the 2017 Conference of Trias and at HWZ University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich. The Spiritus Rector or Master Editor was John Van Maanen with his unique network. The work presents a set of essays cobbled together by friends and colleagues of Edgar H. Schein’s to honor his invigorating and path breaking contributions over six decades to a number of scholarly and applied fields in the social sciences. It is also something of a belated but collective present for Ed on his 90th birthday.

Edgar H. Schein about «Humble Leadership»: Conference of Trias and HWZ University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich, 23 Mai 2017.

As editors of this work, we asked a set of people who had worked closely with Ed at various stages of his long and continuing career to inscribe what they felt were the lessons they have learned from him as well as what they consider to be his major contributions to their respective fields. We have fifteen essays drawn from a variety of authors, some who emphasize the theoretical and research side of Ed’s work, some who emphasize the developmental and practical side the work, and some who pay attention to both sides since each side informs the other.


Edgar H. Schein – The Spirit of Inquiry
Gerhard Fatzer, John Van Maanen, Daniel C. Schmid, Wolfgang G. Weber (Eds.)
ISBN 978-3-903187-39-9

The fifteen essays could easily have been multiplied many times over for Ed’s spheres of influence and acquaintances are extensive (and still expansive). His influence is not strictly bound by discipline nor geography. His work weaves various threads drawn from psychology, sociology, anthroology and attracts interest from North America to Europe to Asia. We have tried to be representative of Ed’s diverse concerns in selecting contributors to this collection but, of necessity, spare in asking for papers. Not surprisingly, we met with success when soliciting commentary. All the contributors were enthusiastic and eager to write and delivered on a relatively tight editorial schedule.

The contributors are roughly divided – with some overlap – into four groupings: Colleagues, coworkers with Ed, in the Organization Studies Group at MIT and associates of Ed who worked with him at MIT outside the group in the areas of organizational change and development; former students of his in the Organization Studies Group; two contributors who know well Ed’s fascinating family history, including his son; and three long-time friends of Ed from Europe. The essays from each contributor detail areas of admiration and influence that differ slightly from one another but do come together to offer a rather full portrait of Ed’s special and skilled artistry, a blend of the humanities and social sciences.

To briefly introduce the sections of this collection of appreciative writings, the first section has essays by Lotte Bailyn and John Van Maanen, colleagues in the Organization Studies Group, that focus more or less on the scholarly side of Ed’s work and their lengthy shared history at MIT. This section also includes essays by Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer, associates of Ed’s at MIT but members of different groups in the Sloan School. The latter two essays focus on more on Ed’s applied, helping side and deal closely with his role as an exemplary teacher or, as a label Ed might prefer, a respected coach.

Ed Schein, the humble educator, has developed, articulated, honed, and passed on these deeper principles to a global community of action researchers and reflective practitioners. (…) With a deep bow to a teacher who – more than any other teacher I have ever met – embodies every single principle that he espouses in his own actions and way of being.

C. Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer, Leadership and Sustainability, MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge MA; Presencing Institute, Cambridge, MA.

The second section features six contributions by former students of Ed’s in the Organization Studies Group who have gone on to have rather notable research and teaching careers of their own: Steve Barley, Gibb Dyer, Gideon Kunda, Deborah Dougherty, Nitin Nohria and Jane Salk. All were doctoral students in the 1980s and, while matriculating in different years, were part of what might be thought of now – although at the time unrecognized – as a small but “hot group” which included the faculty as well. It was quite democratic. Everybody, including grad students were in on the act. There were status differences to be sure but all could speak up and partake in debate. Multiple authorship was common. To some degree, those engaged saw the little group as something of an embattled enclave – both within the Sloan School and MIT at large vis-à-vis the prestigious, quantitatively oriented groups – like economics – that dominated the local pecking order and, externally, in contrast to the traditional “organizational behavior” groups at other larger (and regarded as misguided or dumber) institutions.

The third section consists of two selections. The first offers a quick history of the peripatetic but close knit family life Ed experienced when he was young. As told by Daniel C. Schmid, our man from Zurich grew up in several academic environments far from Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the run up to World War II which was, to say the least, an intense and dangerous moment in time. The second selection is a warm and unique depiction of Ed as both a father and an unintentional futurist written by his son and sometimes co-author Peter A. Schein. Both broaden our view of Ed Schein by portraying his life and times beyond the often-cloistered confines of the academy.

The fourth and last section of the volume presents essays written by European friends of Ed Schein: Gerhard Fatzer, Sabina Schoefer, and Wolfgang G. Weber. Gerhard’s essay takes up his original encounters with Ed Schein in the early 1980s at MIT and traces their evolving relationship over the years. Sabine Schoefer, along with Sylvia Boecker and Gerhard Fatzer, was instrumental in introducing Ed Schein to the German speaking public through his translated books and through six Trias Conferences held in Ed’s birthplace of Zurich. Sabine’s essay present what she calls a “vital toolkit for the development of organizations” that draws on many of Ed’s writings. Wolfgang’s contribution is to compare Ed’s work on dialogue and discourse with some prominent European theorists such as Juergen Habermas.

The volume concludes with a selected list of Ed’s publications. A complete listing would have amounted to well over 200 cites so we have made some editorial deletions – cutting out those one-off publications such as compressed interviews, abridged special interest publications, some brief forwards to other works, short reviews, and summaries of previously published works. We have however highlighted – denoted in the manuscript in bold letters – those books Ed himself considers his most vital and meaningful. And, as is apparent from the testimony given here, it is a body of work that has maintained its relevance and usefulness to a multitude of readers over the demanding test of time.

Order the book here: Amazon or innsbruck university press

Artificial Intelligence or «R.U.R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots»

No other topic actually seems to be as hot as artificial intelligence and robotics. Indeed, it’s anything but new: Already in 1920, the Czech writer and playwright Karel Čapek addressed the assumption of power by artificial beings in his novel «R.U.R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots». The name of the play stands for a company that produces artificial humans (so-called Androids). These Robots, a neologism of Karel’s brother Josef Čapek, are used as cheap and lawless workers. Their targeted and massive use in industry changes the entire global economy over time. In the course of the play, however, the art people rebel and destroy the entire human race:

«My dear Miss Glory, Robots are not people. They are mechanically more perfect than we are, they have an astounding intellectual capacity, but they have no soul.» (R.U.R., 1920)

Source:  1938: The first attempt at science fiction on television aired - a BBC adaptation of Karel Čapek's Rossum’s Universal Robots. https://twitter.com/bbcarchive/status/962619743277432832.

In the 1930s, the clouds over Europe became darker and darker. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, many intellectuals and writers had guessed what the political development in Europe was heading for. Čapek also had a highly sensitive perception of current events. His anti-war drama «Bílá Nemoc» («The White Plague»), written in 1936/37, was created in the gloomy atmosphere, in which two highly different characters face each other: The Dictator who infects the people with his demagogic speeches with the virus of mass psychosis – the «White Plague» (aka «Morbus Chengi») – and Dr Galen, a doctor who is aware of the value of human life and can cure the disease. The Dictator orders the doctor to come to him after his best friend, an armor magnate, has contracted the «White Plague». He asks Dr Galen to save his friend. The doctor only wants to do it under one condition: Armament production has to be discontinued. The dictator refuses.

«If you could rule people through fear, you wouldn’t need war. Don’t you think most people are afraid? Yet despite it there’ll be war – there’ll always be war.» (Bílá Nemoc, 1937)

 

This is where the clasp closes to R.U.R., especially as the National Socialist robots prove just as murderous and should plunge the world into the abyss. Čapek himself died of pneumonia on 25 December 1938, only a few weeks after the fatal Munich Agreement and just three months before the Germans invaded Prague on 15 March 1939.

Further movie information (in Czech): bila-nemoc-narodni-filmovy-archiv

History doesn’t care about «Ctrl Z»

Today, exactly 20 years ago, I started my career as a scientific collaborator in one of the most ambitious and controversally discussed historical projects Switzerland has ever launched: The Independent Commission of Experts: Switzerland – Second World War, also known as «Bergier Commission» (www.uek.ch).

SRF Arena, 22 March 2002

After thousands of pages, various oral history interviews, and 30 scientific publications / studies, it can be stated that all these analogue signals we collected between 1996 and 2002 are still vibrating today, namely in a digital manner.

These vibes can actually be found in the Media Archive of Swiss Radio and Television (SRF). As well, Memoriav, the Association for the Conservation of the Audiovisual Heritage of Switzerland, with its outstanding data collection called Memobase, the digitized resources at the Swiss Federal Archives, Berne, and the Archives of Contemporary History at the ETH Zurich, are perfect entry points to delve digitally into Swiss contemporary history.

The recent report «Backup for Posterity» (3Sat, 3 May 2018) shows that 90 percent of all  data has been generated in the last two years: the volume of digital data generated by our modern society is literally exploding. How can this data survive? What form of memory is there for our digital legacy? The main question is, which data is worth collecting and which is not. Above all, history the Queen of Analogue doesn’t care. Let’s put it this way: History itself will always be analogue because the human brain can’t voluntarely press a <Ctrl Z> key combination to reset its past experience. In other words:

History will never die because to <forgive> doesn’t mean to <forget>: Up to now, there’s no human way to push the Holy Digital Knob called <Undo>!

 

PS: Feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about working in a globally organized virtual team in the beginning era of digitized research.

Find specialists? With the right spirit!

Local Agenda 21 Solothurn and its partner organisations (including the Solothurn Chamber of Commerce) organise the annual event «Business Apéro für Unternehmen mit Durchblick». In three papers and a short panel discussion, it was shown how SMEs can deal with the challenges of the shortage of skilled workers, education and the world of work 4.0. Dr. Daniel C. Schmid from the HWZ University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration, Zurich, spoke about analog and digital signals in companies.

Solothurner Handelskammer: «9. Wirtschaftsapéro für Unternehmen mit Durchblick», Balsthal, 1 February 2018

Regional employers give lectures in Balsthal. The topic of the shortage of skilled workers was discussed in detail. These are not rosy prospects: The canton of Solothurn is particularly affected by the shortage of skilled workers. More than half of the companies that advertise jobs could not or could not fill them as desired. More than 300 spectators gathered at Jomos to listen to presentations and a podium on this topic.

https://www.solothurnerzeitung.ch/solothurn/kanton-solothurn/fachkraefte-finden-mit-dem-richtigen-spirit-132157382#

Paolo Conte: The Stars of Jazz in the Night of Fascism

Paolo Conte, Festival da Jazz, Pontresina, 28 July 2017

Paolo Conte was affected by jazz when this style of music was banned by the fascist regime. This experience has shaped the Cantautore, who will perform at the Festival da Jazz on 28 July 2017 (original article in German, published in NZZ, 27 July 2017. Copyright photo: Matthias Heyde, www.festivaldajazz.ch).

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«Time-Span» and the «Midlife Crisis» of Organizations

Time-Span

Have you ever heard of Elliott Jaques? If you haven’t, don’t worry, because hardly anyone knows him. But for sure, you know the term «Midlife Crisis», don’t you? Guess now, who has coined the phrase? Bingo!
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«From Competition to Compassion»: What connects Led Zeppelin with Digital Learning 4.0

led-zeppelin-pop-art-ppcorn1

INPUT: The Initial Situation

Until a few years ago, learning processes were practically exclusively aimed at acquiring knowledge and skills through accumulation, especially in music, shown by great bands like Led Zeppelin. Knowledge was essentially based on an inductive experiential and personal reflection competence, as Goethe already knew in “Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre”: Continue reading