About Group Relations Conferences

Home    About Group Relations Conferences

‘Making the Difference’ Group Relations Conference (4 days)

– Group as a Whole Learning for Leadership, Authority and Organisation


For Group Relations China, it has always been characteristic of the Group Relations learning model that the focus of interpretation has been on the dynamics of the group as a whole, and not as individuals.


The central and practical interest is relatedness: the processes of mutual influence between individuals and groups, groups and groups, and group and environment; and to wider social systems and society itself.


The properties of groups as a whole are different from the properties of the sub parts. We only have to observe football teams to see how a group of very average players can become a highly successful team as a whole. In like manner, we often see teams of highly talented footballers who become a very average or even poor team as a whole.


Our primary focus in groups needs to be the group-as-a-whole and this includes what individuals or sub-groups may do. Roles that are taken up by group members are a function of the group-as-a- whole and the behaviour of a person in a group has more to do with the group than it does with his or her individuality.


The primary task of the Conference is not to contribute to theory but to provide members with opportunities to learn about their own involvement in group dynamics. As the title “Group-as-a-whole Learning for Leadership, Authority and Organisation” suggests, these three elements are important learning aspects of the conference.


Leadership: Leadership involves sensitivity to feelings and attitudes of others, ability to understand what is happening in a group at the unconscious as well as the conscious level, and skill in acting in ways that contribute to, rather than hinder, task performance.

Authority:  One specific focus on learning is about the nature of authority and the problems encountered in its exercise. More generally, the aim is to enable members to develop greater maturity in understanding and managing the boundary between their own inner world and the realities of their external environment. In other words, to struggle to exercise their own authority, to manage themselves in role and to become less of a captive of group and organisational processes.

Organisation: The conference itself, consisting of members of the conference and the staff which provides the learning opportunities, may be viewed as a temporary organisation with certain tasks and with its own history and development. The fact that the historical process is compressed into a four day duration serves to highlight some of the phenomena that develop more slowly in the life of most organisations.


Experiential Learning

Knowledge, let alone its effective use, cannot generally be gained from reading, lectures, or seminars. Both the acquisition of knowledge and how to use it require direct experience. The aim of the conferences described here is therefore to enable the members to learn, through direct experience, how to work with others as individuals and as members of the groups to which they belong.

The conferences provide opportunities for members to experience what forces are to bear on them, when they take roles that require them to lead others, and what forces they bring to bear on those who lead them. They learn what it feels like to be, and how to behave as, both leader and follower, and they experience the conflicts that arise in themselves and in others when they take these roles.


Conference Events

Small Study Group (SSG): The purpose of the Small Study Group (SSG) is to provide opportunities to learn about group-as-a-whole dynamics in small face-to-face groups. The primary task is to study the behaviour of the group, as a group, as it happens.


Large Study Group (LSG): The purpose of the Large Study Group (LSG) is also to provide opportunities to learn about interpersonal relations as they happen, but in a setting in which the number of members is larger than can form a face to face group. In this group, the individual may not only face other individuals they may also face major subgroups, these may be the SSGs or spontaneously created subgroups. Members may seek anonymity in a subgroup or as a member of the whole.


Inter-group Event (IG) : The event is designed to provide members with opportunities for learning about the way they become involved in group processes. The focus is on the interplay between internal and external relations of groups. Specific opportunities for learning may include: Formation of groups; giving and taking authority; leadership; delegation; boundaries; working across boundaries; organisations as systems; relationships; relatedness; intra-group dynamics; inter-group dynamics; and, learning from experience.


Review and Application Group(RAG): The task of the Review and Application Groups is to review the conference learning and to consider the to normal work situations.


Plenary Discussion: The Plenary Discussions are an opportunity to make further sense of the experience in discussion with the consultants where necessary referring to theoretical concepts to assist the learning process.


Readings: A selection of papers, relevant to the day’s task, will be provided to the members to read at their leisure to provide an opportunity to make further sense of the experience. Group Relations China is the only organization in the world that provides post-experience readings to conference members. Our experience is and it has been shown that readings after the group experiences can substantially extend members’ learning.



Learning Outcomes & Member Learning – Testimonials