Kurt Lewin and the origins of OD

Authored by: Bernard Burnes

The Routledge Companion to Organizational Change

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415556453
eBook ISBN: 9780203810279
Adobe ISBN: 9781136680908


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Freud the clinician and Lewin the experimentalist – these are the two men whose names will stand out before all others in the history of our psychological era.

(Edward C. Tolman’s memorial address for Kurt Lewin delivered at the 1947 Convention of the American Psychological Association, quoted in Marrow, 1969: ix)

There is little question that the intellectual father of contemporary theories of applied behavioural science, action research and ‘planned change’ is Kurt Lewin. His seminal work on leadership style and the experiments on planned change which took place in World War II in an effort to change consumer behavior launched a whole generation of research in group dynamics and the implementation of change programs.

(Schein, 1988: 239)

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