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Sloan Fellow Celebrates Work of Edgar Schein in New Book

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In a 2006 article, the late Edgar Schein, who was the Society of Sloan Fellows professor of management emeritus at MIT Sloan, reflected on his long career.

“Looking back I can see that I have been as much a practitioner as a scholar or rather, I found the most productive research to be the active practice of trying to help organizations. In reflecting on practice, I realize how much of it is artistry,” he wrote.

David Coghlan, SF ’85, Professor Emeritus and Fellow Emeritus, Trinity Business School

Schein, who died last year at 94, is the subject of a new book, Edgar H. Schein: The Artistry of a Reflexive Organizational Scholar-Practitioner.

Written by David Coghlan, SF ’85, professor emeritus and fellow emeritus at the Trinity Business School, the book celebrates Schein’s extensive contributions to management, organization studies, and applied behavioral science.

Beginning with a chronicle of Schein’s learning journey, foundations in social science, and spirit of inquiry, Coghlan details the major advancements and core themes of the subject’s life and work. From process consultation and humble inquiry to coercive persuasion and organizational culture, the author expertly encapsulates everything Schein researched and taught.

“This singular volume is adopting a reflective perspective on the work of Edgar Schein as a reflexive social scientist and shows how he developed his craft as an engaged scholar-practitioner through attention to his experience in working with managers and organizations and generating knowledge out of action,” says Coghlan.

A renowned scholar with over 300 published articles and book chapters on organization development and action research, Coghlan recalls the many pertinent lessons—academic and otherwise—he learned from Schein while enrolled in the Sloan Fellows Program, now the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA Program.

Coghlan has spent much of his career imparting these scholarly and pragmatic lessons in his research and teaching and hopes to do the same for the book’s readers, be they familiar with Schein’s work or not. He is especially eager to convey the creativity of his former teacher and colleague’s approach to management scholarship and praxis.

In addition to reviewing nearly 70 years’ worth of published research, Coghlan consulted with Schein before he died in 2023. The author also collaborated with Schein’s immediate family, who gave him access to Schein’s unpublished memoirs and composed a forward for the book.

Alan White, SF ’71, (Senior Associate Dean, Emeritus) praises Coghlan for his dedication to simultaneously exhibiting Schein’s research and honoring the memory of the late professor.

“David was close to Ed Schein, and he writes with much insight of Ed’s exceptional contributions to the field of organizational studies. This book is a gift to those who were Ed’s students as well as those who did not have the opportunity to know Ed at MIT Sloan,” says White.

Summarizing his learnings in a note to Coghlan, Schein explained that “the essence of understanding and working with human systems is to focus on relationships rather than individuals and on the process of how we relate rather than the structure.”

As Coghlan is quick to point out, however, “It is how Ed came to these subjects in his experience, posed questions, sought understanding, sought to consolidate his understanding, and presented them to the world through his publications is where, I think, there is rich learning for the scholarship of practice.”

Readers can download an open access digital edition of Edgar H. Schein: The Artistry of a Reflexive Organizational Scholar-Practitioner now.

For more info Andrew Husband Senior Writer & Editor, OER (617) 715-5933