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Manley, J. (2014). W. Gordon Lawrence, 20 January, 1934 - 27 December, 2013. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 14(1):214-217.

(2014). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 14(1):214-217


W. Gordon Lawrence, 20 January, 1934 - 27 December, 2013

Julian Manley

Gordon Lawrence was best known and loved by many around the world for his work with social dreaming. Fiercely independent in character, idiosyncratic in thought, generous in spirit, Gordon was born in Aberdeenshire. He attended Aberdeen University from 1953-1956. After a short spell in the army, he worked for Lloyd's & Scottish Finance, but after a year moved back into education as a liberal studies lecturer at Charles Keene College, Leicester. He also taught sociology and psychology of education at Durham University.

His work as we know it today really began after joining the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in 1971 where he worked for eleven years as an action researcher. In 1982, still at the Tavistock, he “discovered” social dreaming, a turning point in his life. In a complex re-visiting of his ideas around psychoanalytical approaches to groups and organisations, Lawrence resigned and became a consultant with Shell International for three years. He sought new ways of developing his thought and became President of the International Foundation for Social Innovation (IFSI) in Paris, but rivalries became intense and led to his resignation. From this moment on, Lawrence pursued an individual, sometimes lonely, path in the development of the idea of social dreaming.

Lawrence's work was not exclusively centred on social dreaming. His “discovery” was also part of his thinking about the psychodynamics of groups and organisations in society. For Lawrence, social dreaming partly came about through his experiences of group relations conferences in the Tavistock tradition and intellectually through the work of Bion. This was pointed out in David Armstrong's important introduction to Lawrence's first social dreaming book as editor, Social Dreaming @ Work (1998). Lawrence greatly valued Armstrong's friendship and intellectual support, which also helped to preserve the links to the world of the Tavistock and group relations.

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