Change Know-alls: Kurt Lewin

I often relate to theoretician and scientist. Therefore I would like to include some of them into my Blog in order to link to them directly at certain points of writing. I did a little research and found a very good summary about many of them at Wikipedia. So I allowed myself to save some time and to include the information from Wikipedia here in my Blog.
The original source is presented below…As mentioned I do this, because I want to focus on tools, theories, etc. and not waste time compressing the lives of theoreticians…

About the person
Kurt Zadek Lewin (September 9,1890 – February 12,1947), a German-born psychologist, is one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology. Lewin is often recognized as the “founder of social psychology” and was one of the first researchers to study Group Dynamics and Organizational Development. In an empirical study by Haggbloom et al using six criteria such as citations and recognition, Lewin was found to be the 18th most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century.

Lewin coined the notion of genidentity. “Der Begriff der Genese in Physik, Biologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte” (Lewin’s Habilitationsschrift), which has gained some importance in various theories of space-time and related fields. He also proposed Herbert Blumer’s interactionist perspective of 1937 as an alternative to the nature versus nurture debate. Lewin suggested that neither nature (inborn tendencies) nor nurture (how experiences in life shape individuals) alone can account for individuals’ behavior and personalities, but rather that both nature and nurture interact to shape each person. This idea was presented in the form of Lewin’s Equation for behavior B=ƒ(P,E). Prominent psychologists mentored by Kurt Lewin included Leon Festinger (1919 – 1989), who became known for his Cognitive Dissonance Theory (1956), environmental psychologist Roger Barker, and Bluma Zeigarnik.

Force field analysis
Force field analysis is one of the most influential developments in the field of social science. It provides a framework for looking at the factors (forces) that influence a situation, originally social situations. It looks at forces that are either driving movement toward a goal (helping forces) or blocking movement toward a goal (hindering forces). The principle, developed by Kurt Lewin, is a significant contribution to the fields of social science, Psychology, social psychology, Organizational Development, Process Management, and Change Management.

Action research
Lewin, then a professor at MIT, first coined the term “action research” in about 1944, and it appears in his 1946 paper “Action Research and Minority Problems”. In that paper, he described action research as “a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action” that uses “a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action, and fact-finding about the result of the action”.

Leadership climates
Lewin often characterized organizational Management Styles and cultures in terms of Leadership climates defined by

  1. authoritarian
  2. democratic
  3. laissez-faire work environments.

Authoritarian environments are characterized where the leader determines policy with techniques and steps for work tasks dictated by the leader in the division of labor. The leader is not necessarily hostile but is aloof from participation in work and commonly offers personal praise and criticism for the work done. Democratic climates are characterized where policy is determined through collective processes with decisions assisted by the leader. Before accomplishing tasks, perspectives are gained from group discussion and technical advice from a leader. Members are given choices and collectively decide the division of labor. Praise and criticism in such an environment are objective, fact minded and given by a group member without necessarily having participated extensively in the actual work. Laissez faire environments give freedom to the group for policy determination without any participation from the leader. The leader remains uninvolved in work decisions unless asked, does not participate in the division of labor, and very infrequently gives praise.

Change process
An early model of change developed by Lewin described change as a three-stage process. The first stage he called “unfreezing”. It involved overcoming inertia and dismantling the existing “mind set”. Defense mechanisms have to be bypassed. In the second stage the change occurs. This is typically a period of confusion and transition. We are aware that the old ways are being challenged but we do not have a clear picture to replace them with yet. The third and final stage he called “freezing”. The new mindset is crystallizing and one’s comfort level is returning to previous levels. This is often misquoted as “refreezing” (see Lewin K (1947) Frontiers in Group Dynamics).

Lewin’s equation
Lewin’s Equation, B=ƒ(P,E), is a psychological equation of behavior developed by Kurt Lewin. It states that behavior is a function of the person and his or her environment.
The equation is the psychologist’s most well known formula in social psychology, of which Lewin was a modern pioneer. When first presented in Lewin’s book Principles of Topological Psychology, published in 1936, it contradicted most popular theories in that it gave importance to a person’s momentary situation in understanding his or her behavior, rather than relying entirely on the past.

All content above taken from Wikipedia. Original source of article can be found here.


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