Ralph Stacey: Taking experience seriously
Ralph Stacey is one of the pioneers in taking up insights from the complexity sciences in organizational theory. Trained in South Africa and the London School of Economics as a macroeconomist, and latterly as a group therapist, Stacey has combined abstract analytical thinking with an interest in experience, the emotions, a sense of self, and belonging, which make us human. From his interdisciplinary education and experience in industry he has developed a perspective on organizations which combines insights from both the natural and social sciences. This has led to a substantial body of publications with international renown. From the sciences of complexity he argues by analogy that organizations are iterating patterns of human interaction, never in equilibrium, which cannot be controlled by any individual or group. From the social sciences he focuses on the importance of our interdependence, expressed through power relations, and daily conversational activity. Sixteen years ago, and with two close colleagues, he founded a group-based professional doctorate, which runs psychodynamically. The program encourages practicing managers and leaders to focus on their daily experience of managing in uncertainty. In starting this program, he has recreated the best traditions of the Academy dating back to the ancient Greeks, where students and staff engage together in reflective conversation about the things which matter to them, provoking each other to think. Though he is well past retirement age Ralph is still a faculty member, raconteur, and conversationalist, participating in ways which make us all, faculty and students alike, more fully ourselves.